Talk to Me Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
This directorial debut by the Australian twin brothers Philippou creatively reinvents the horror subgenre of possession, with an interesting concept that feels fresh!
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Director: Danny Philippou & Michael Philippou
Cast: Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes, Chris Alosio, Miranda Otto, Markus Johnson & Alexandria Steffensen.
Run Time: 95 min.
Australian Release: 27 July 2023 US Release: 28 July 2023
UK Release: 28 July 2023
German Release: 27 July 2023
Welcome everybody to my review of the newest A24 horror flick, which has been hyped globally. Now, I did not know anything about it, I just noticed that it was trending online, then found a showing at my nearby cinema. I hadn’t seen the trailers, did not know exactly what it was about, basically, I went in completely blind. Turns out, it is one of the more creative indie productions, especially considering that it revolves around spiritual possessions. So, light a candle, grab your Ouija board and let’s break through the veil, as I review… Talk to Me!
A group of friends discover an embalmed hand, able to summon ghosts. The thrill of possession gets them hooked, until one conjuring goes too far, opening the door to the spirit world. As reality and frightening visions start to blend into each other, they are forced to make a choice.
This horror-thriller marks the directorial debut of the twin brothers Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, simultaneously known as RackaRacka, after their YouTube channel that is known for intense action horror comedy. The twins also worked behind the scenes on The Babadook, another fantastic, creepy Australian film, where they met Samantha Jennings, who helped them with production.
The screenplay was written by Danny Phillippou and Bill Hinzman, taken from a concept by Daley Pearson. The core idea, to turn the act of a handshake on its head, something that is generally known as a friendly gesture, yet can also signify intimacy, not only feels disturbingly intrusive but takes the genre into a refreshingly different direction. Making the supernatural object a ceramic embalmed hand, with a mystery background, was an ingenious idea, unseen as of today. It also doesn’t spoon-feed every detail to viewers.
The directing duo made the smart choice to rely less on scares, instead turning the story into an intense roller coaster ride, with tension being wound up after every consecutive scene. This is achieved through its unusual pacing, permitting the audience to linger in what they just experienced, but ramping it up when bad things go down. The first scene immediately lets viewers know what they are in for.
While the ending is very creative, it did not manage to be the jaw-dropping surprise it intended to be. I, at least, foresaw the supposed twist immediately.
The dialogue is competently written, sounding organic. It is used to convey the sentiments of character, without turning into exposition dumps. Profanities are used heavily, as well as including some Gen-Z jargon.
The premise depends a lot on the physical acting of the cast, as possessions are not reflected through a change in voice, instead using abnormal movements. Sophie Wilde, in her feature film debut role as Mia, is fantastic! She manages to capture the fear of loneliness, desire, despair as well as vulnerability. Mia herself is a relatable persona, who went through a traumatic experience that is warping her reality. Her relationship with her father is difficult, her decisions made are questionable, yet understandable.
Joe Bird as Riley, gives an incredible physical performance that rivals that of Wilde’s! Riley is a young teenager, brought up by a single mother, trying to find his place in life. He identifies his friendship with Mia as that of a surrogate sister.
Alexandra Jensen, plays Jade, Mia’s best friend, who is Riley’s older sister. Miranda Otto, who is best known as Éowyn from Lord of the Rings, makes a strong appearance as Jade and Riley’s mother Sue.
Rounding off the cast is Zoe Terakes portraying Hayley, a rebellious teen, plus the creator of these seance parties, just like Chris Alosio, who was cast as Joss, the owner of the hand.
A lot of the atmosphere is built through the amazing cinematography. The one-shot opening sequence is an unexpected shocker, ending with an abrupt cut to black. It makes use of effective transitions, fun montages plus surreal lens distortions. A couple of segments contain unconventional use of steadicams. The camera work in general is very creative. The colour palette is desaturated, adding a lot of blue/grey hues, reflecting the emotional trauma of the lead character.
While the flick relies more on the plot than it does on special effects, the few effects that are used look mostly practical and are well-handled. There are about a maximum of three scenes, which make use of obvious computer graphics, but everything else does have a physical sensation to it.
The soundtrack created by Cornel Wilczek adds to the atmosphere, feels ominous, yet never overwhelms the narrative.
Verdict: I am blown away by the sheer talent behind this directorial debut. At its core, it is a melancholic drama about loss plus grief, wrapped around a horror premise that redefines the subgenre of possession, made for the social media generation. My only gripe is its ending, which wasn’t as clever as it made it out to be. The dialogues sound natural, have a mystery edge, though aren’t used as exposition dumps. The cast gives incredible physical performances, with Sophie Wilde being the standout, playing the lead character. The young Joe Bird gives another strong rendition. The camera work is inventive, using a mix of in-camera trickery and editing. The special effects are minimal, though, effective. This is a rewarding cinematic experience and an absolute recommendation from my side! Talk to Me obtains an 8.0 out of 10, deserving to be on every horror lover's watchlist.
Have you already seen Talk to Me? How was your experience in theatres? If you are a fan of the genre, this is a must! Thank you for reading & forget to subscribe!