Having made a name for themselves with popular YouTube channel RackaRacka, Australian twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou have now moved into feature films. Their debut is Talk to Me, a possession horror that, despite faltering somewhat during its second half, still succeeds in impressing overall.
All the best horrors open with a nice little shock scene and Talk to Me is certainly no exception. We track a young man as he moves through the crowd at a busy house party. It’s clear that he is desperately trying to find someone and when he comes to a locked bedroom door, he breaks it down to reveal his younger brother inside, clearly not in a good way at all. As the man attempts to get his brother out of there, the partygoers all sense that something is about to kick off that’s worthy of pointing their phones at. And they’re certainly not disappointed, in the first of a handful of brutally shocking scenes that feature throughout the movie.
From there, we’re introduced to a new set of characters, with no idea (for now) of the relevance of that opening scene. It’s the anniversary of 17-year-old Mia’s mother’s apparent suicide and the relationship between Mia (Sophie Wilde) and her father (Marcus Johnson) now appears somewhat strained. Instead, Mia favours the company of best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and her younger brother Riley (Joe Bird), spending a lot of her time at their house, even picking up Riley in her car to help Jade out while their mother is at work.
In a bid to feel better about the anniversary, Mia tags along with Jade to a party. Mia’s attempts to interact and connect with others at the party are unsuccessful, but after a while the focus of the party shifts towards something a bit more supernatural. A couple of the teens have brought along a hand, rumoured to be the severed hand of a medium that has been embalmed and encased in plaster and is now used for communicating with the dead.
Jade is already familiar with the hand, although she’s sceptical of it having seen several social media videos of other teens apparently in some kind of trance-like state while holding it. The rules are laid out for us, and others at the party who aren’t familiar with the process – you have to hold the hand as if you are shaking hands with it and say “Talk to me”. You should be able to see a dead person in front of you at that point and if you say “I let you in”, you then allow the spirit to take control of your body. It has been determined that 90 seconds is the maximum time limit for possession with a lit candle helping to open the door to the beyond. After those 90 seconds, the candle must be extinguished immediately and you must be disconnected from the hand in order to prevent permanent possession… and lots of other bad things.
In an attempt to fit in with the crowd, Mia decides to give the hand a try, and the results are terrifying, with her blackened eyes, ghoulish expressions and words of warning for some of those present. But for those who are used to the experience, making the connection with the dead is much like an addiction, just another high to be enjoyed at a party with good friends. After Jade’s boyfriend experiences a particularly embarrassing possession (which is unfortunately caught on multiple cameras, for all to see), we’re treated to a montage of everyone taking turns with the hand and generally having a pretty good time. But then Mia catches sight of her dead mother, there’s a breaking of rules, and we’re suddenly brought back down to earth with one hell of a brutal bump. From there, things just go from bad to worse.
It’s thanks to the mainly young cast that Talk to Me works so well, not to mention a brilliant turn from Miranda Otto as the mum who doesn’t take any BS from her kids. The performances, particularly during the possession scenes (which for the most part were achieved using practical effects) are outstanding and the movie takes its time in setting up the creepier moments, aided by some terrifyingly chilling sound design and uncomfortably gross visuals.
After a strong setup in the first two-thirds, Talk to Me kind of goes off the rails a little for a while. The whole crutch of the story hinges on the grief felt by Mia and the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death, but it’s the most underdeveloped aspect of the whole story, hindered further by what is definitely the weakest character of the movie, Mia’s dad. Things get a little weird and confusing for a while, frantically throwing supernatural visuals at us before eventually settling down and ending on a high, with an interesting little idea that I would definitely love to see explored further.
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.