Talk To Me: Review. By Daniel Rester.
Talk to Me feels like a Gen Z answer to Flatliners (1990). Instead of getting a rush by temporarily dying though, the characters in this get exhilarated by becoming possessed by spirits for ninety seconds or less. How? They grab onto a ceramic hand (with a mysterious embalmed hand inside) and invite supernatural forces in. Instead of being terrified by their discoveries and by having blackened eyes and contorting bodies, the teens gleefully take turns while others film them with their smartphones. The fun doesn’t last.
Sophie Wilde is the heart and soul of Talk to Me, playing main character Mia with commitment. Mia struggles to fit in as she handles her depression from her mom committing suicide two years earlier. After going to a party with her close friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Mia tries out the hand possession ritual and finds it to be a temporary escape. After Jade’s little brother Riley (Joe Bird) tries it though, Mia begins seeing her mother’s spirit.
Danny and Michael Philippou show great promise as directors with Talk to Me, with the film being their debut; the two are previously known for a popular YouTube channel called RackaRacka. The themes of grief and awkwardness in the script (co-written by Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman) come through expertly in the filmmakers’ hands. The film also looks very polished considering it is a first film, has clever spins on possession tropes, and favors disturbing images over cheap jump scares.
About two-thirds of Talk to Me presents some of the best horror I have seen in the past few years. The film opens with a surprising scene using a long tracking shot before delivering fresh scene after fresh scene with humor and scares. One shocker involving the smashing of a face is particularly intense and well-handled; it perfectly transitions the film into deadly serious territory after previously giving audiences a funny and energetic montage of possessions.
The final stretch of the film becomes more familiar and predictable. The rules for the possessions start to feel muddled by the end as well as Mia crosses in and out of sanity. A central relationship involving Mia and her father Max (Marcus Johnson) could have used a few more minutes of development too in order to sell the dramatic weight of certain moments.
Despite its minor issues, Talk to Me is still a hell of a debut feature and an excellent Australian horror picture. Wilde is absolutely terrific in it as Mia and the Philippous inject new ideas into ancient formulas. Talk to Me rises above the pack of tired studio products in the possession horror subgenre and delivers an inventive and terrifying experience.
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