Saturday, July 29

Talk to Me Review

Talk to Me 

Dir: Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou

Starring: Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Otis Dhanji, Alexandra Jensen, and Joe Bird

Remember when shaking hands with an evil spirit would've been a terrifying experience? In Danny and Michael Philippou's haunting and horrific scary movie "Talk to Me," teenagers in Australia don't flee in fright from the encounter but instead willingly invite demonic possession into their lives and film every second of the terror for social media. It's an ingenious narrative setup, one that doesn't seem so unrealistic in the world today, that allows the genre storytelling design to push its sinister sights far into the depths of fear, revealing through violent methods a story about grief and isolation that builds an unnerving sense of dread that slowly permeates the entire tale.  

The story begins at a house party where a young man barricades himself in the bedroom in an environment of loud music and conversation. When a concerned friend breaks the door down, pulling the troubled young man through a gathering of curious teens recording every second on their phones, the party ends with a startling act of violence. Danny and Michael Philippou do a great job of establishing the dark tone for the film from the beginning, establishing a sense of panic that leads to chaos, all while maintaining an uneasy tension throughout. 

Mia (Sophie Wilde), a lonely and grief-stricken young woman, is recovering from a traumatic event, spending most of her time in the home of her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade's little brother Riley (Joe Bird). The close friends organize a party to play a macabre game featuring a sculpted contorted hand. As one partygoer describes it, the hand belonged to a medium, and their embalmed appendage resides inside the sculpture. Mia, eagerly volunteering, accepts the challenge to play the game. The rules are simple: shake the hand and recite the words "talk to me." Immediately after saying the phrase, Mia sees a frail woman sitting across the table. Mia utters the words, "I let you in," and her body becomes possessed by the spirit. 

Compelling horror films have a way of tapping into shared emotions, utilizing those universal sentiments to induce a specific kind of fear in each viewer. One of the most vital components of "Talk to Me" is its ability to connect themes surrounding grief, loneliness, and love and manipulate them as a vessel of fear to target those interconnected feelings. Mia's character is a culmination of all these feelings; the tragic loss of her mother makes her trauma an easy source of manipulation for the tortured souls brought forward by the handshake. 

"Talk to Me" builds an atmosphere of unrelenting dread. Initially, the tone is structured to offer a few moments of brief fun. However, once the friends organize the possession party, where they all take turns inviting the spirits into their bodies, the film reaches its threshold for good vibes and becomes consistent with scare tactics. These terror-inducing moments have strength because of the well-crafted characters, who are all likable and sympathetic on different levels. One of the best relationships in the film exists between Mia and Riley, who have a sibling-like relationship built on trust and compassion. When bad things happen to these two characters, the film's horror hits much harder. As Mia falls deeper into the spell of the possession she invited, her emotions begin to betray her good intentions, influencing her decisions in sinister ways.

Sophie Wilde is exceptional in the lead role, composing a nuanced character while being so affected by the different emotions entering her life. While in the trance of the possession, Wilde unleashes intense mannerisms, making the character feel like an entirely other person through the eyes. Playing young Riley, Joe Bird does superbly in a subtle emotional role that turns aggressively physical. The entire movie rests on the shoulders of these character constructions and performances. Without Sophie Wilde's ability to convey the highs and lows that the character is experiencing or Alexandra Jensen's commitment as the sole tie that binds the friends together, "Talk to Me" would still be an accomplished film but not an emotional one that lingers with you long after the credits role. The combination of unrelenting horror and sincere humanity makes the film so scary.

"Talk to Me" is currently the best horror film of 2023. Its ability to create a haunting atmosphere peaked with unnerving tension and supported by creative genre subversions and superb performances, makes it an exceptional horror experience.

Monte's Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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