Gwenesday Movie Night: Talk To Me (2023)

Gwenesday Movie Night: Talk To Me (2023)

What happens after ninety seconds? They’ll want to stay.

Gwen Pemberton (she/her) // Arts & Culture Editor
Eva Staub // Illustrator

Talk To Me is a gripping supernatural horror that blends an elevated, modern style with a break-neck pace and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. When a group of teenagers acquire a severed hand that gives them the ability to speak to the dead, they are taken in by the intoxicating rush of possession. As their sense of reality begins to slip, and the hold of the spirits becomes stronger, what began as a light-hearted party trick turns sinister, disturbing and perilous.

Talk To Me is an independent Australian film that gained substantial buzz on the festival circuit, and was picked up for distribution by A24 earlier this year. This is the first film from directors Danny and Michael Philippou, who some may know better as the minds behind RackaRacka on YouTube. Despite being new to the medium, the brothers’ familiarity with the camera shines through, especially in the bombastic editing, pace, and sound design, which are a refreshing change for modern horror.

Sophie Wilde is absolutely magnetic in the lead role, showing off both dramatic and comedic chops, and delivering one of the most emotionally intelligent performances I have seen this year. Other standouts include Miranda Otto, who plays the sharp as a tack mother of two teens in the group, and Chris Alosio as Joss, who is the first to experience the twisted magic of the hand. Though the dialogue can be a bit clunky in its exposition, the story is tight, exciting and shocking at every turn.

Despite the supernatural, Talk To Me manages to stay incredibly grounded. The characters are consistent, interacting with each other and a world in a way that feels very authentic to the modern young adult experience. Even when the characters make frustrating choices, every decision is motivated and understandable. 

Sophie Wilde plays Mia, a girl who has recently lost her mother and is struggling with her grief. In an attempt to forget, she drags her best friend Jade and Jade’s younger brother Riley to a “possession party” where a severed hand gives people the chance to contact the dead. 

Once the group starts, they can’t seem to stop. The allegory to drug use adds another layer of intrigue to the film. When one evening things go too far, the ramifications ripple through the group, causing rifts between friends and leaving the door open to persistent spirits. The audience’s grip on reality begins to slip along with the characters as the influence of the spirits becomes stronger.

With a runtime of just over an hour and thirty minutes, the movie flies by. From the beginning, Talk To Me gets your attention, and  keeps you guessing until its final gut punch of a conclusion.

A warning for the squeamish, though the gore in this movie isn’t constant, or in my opinion gratuitous, when the movie chooses to, it goes there. It also utilizes some fantastic practical effects and makeup. All of the spirits, the possession scenes and the gore sprinkled throughout deliver in a way that is hard to replicate with CGI alone. There were a few scenes that had me clutching my face and resisting the urge to cover my eyes. The impact is visceral, and when paired with the highly effective sound design and editing, unforgettable. These moments are carefully chosen, and serve to illustrate the true horror and tragedy of the situation these characters find themselves in.This is a must-see for any horror fan, and a movie you won’t soon forget. Equal parts entertaining and disturbing, Talk To Me is a film that should not be underestimated. Despite its smaller budget, the Phillipou brothers have delivered a technically stunning debut that tugs at your heartstrings even as it makes you shudder in terror.

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