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July 28, 2023 / VVS Films

Starring: Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes, Chris Alosio

Directed By: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou

When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill. Participants can only use the hand for 90 seconds, as anything past that will allow the spirit to stay in them.

Grieving her mother's death, Mia (Sophie Wilde) becomes obsessed with using the hand to contact her mom. That is, until she goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces. Hearing voices, seeing creatures in the shadows, and being followed everywhere she goes, Mia and her friends must try to close the gateway to the other side and send the spirits back with it.

Written By Darren

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Talk to Me knows how to scare its audience with a sense of dread and despair that fills each scene as filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou conjure up some terrifying scares that will leave you in utter fear, while a talented young cast truly brings to life the underlying themes of grief, regret and trauma in A24’s latest horror hit.

If there is one studio that knows how to push the boundaries of the horror genre, it is A24. With unforgettable horror films like Midsommar, Hereditary, X, and Bodies Bodies Bodies, their latest horror film that they are distributing from Australian filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou follows their signature boundary pushing storytelling with deeper themes, while still showcasing those scare tactics that audiences have a love/hate relationship with. The film has been garnering major critical acclaim since its premiere early this year at Sundance, and while it is not the greatest horror film of the year in my opinion, it is easily one of the most chilling and unforgettable experiences you will have at the cinema this summer.

When an embalmed hand being used as part of a séance becomes a viral trend at high school parties, Mia becomes fascinated with it. While the first time she takes the challenge, Mia feels an undeniable rush, as she continues to use it she quickly discovers that there are sinister, supernatural forces using the hand as a conduit that begin to threaten not only Mia’s life, but that of her friends as she is plagued by ghosts and tries to find a way to silence them once and for all.

There is an undeniable sense of dread that washes over the audiences while watching Talk to Me. It is evident from the first chilling scene that sets the tone of the film, quickly getting under the audience’s skin and slowly builds over the ninety five minute run time. While the film gets bogged down by the typical teenage and social media shenanigans in the first act of the film, once the spirits make their appearance, there is a drastic turn in the film. It is clear that the creative team is not playing around with the story they are telling as grueling, shocking and bloody events occur on screen that will leave viewers in shock that are not for the faint of heart. From there, the story runs quickly as the terror reaches uncontrollable levels, resulting in a third act that will have you holding your breath in utter fear before the film hits you with an uncomfortable end that you won’t soon forget. The story itself is great, however the pacing could have been a little better in my opinion as it starts off fairly slow before hitting full throttle come the second act, where a more gradual build in the first act could have set the deeper themes of grief, trauma and guilt up better for their exploration in the second and third acts.

Featuring a predominantly young cast, there are some wonderful performances at play in this film showcasing bright futures for its stars. Leading the cast as Mia is Sophie Wilde, and she carries the emotional arc of the film on her shoulders from start to finish. Wilde taps into an uncontrollable amount of grief in trauma as she captures Mia’s internal struggle with the loss of her mother that creates the emotional core at the center of the film. At the same time, there is a deeply unsettling persona to her as she channels the spirits possessing Mia, ensuring that you simultaneously feel for Mia while also being terrified of what she is capable of. Alexandra Jensen and Otis Dhanji are both splendid as Jade and Daniel, having a great on screen rapport with Wilde, though it is young Joe Bird who steals the film as Riley. There is a sweetness and naivety that Bird captures within Riley, creating a character you immediately care for and begin to worry for after the first séance. But as the film progresses, there is an unhinged quality that Bird captures with a sinister playfulness that creates some of the most shocking moments of the film, resulting in moments that will haunt you long after the film ends. And I have to shout out Miranda Otto as Jensen and Bird’s characters’ mother Sue who is the comedic relief of the film. Otto is crass, delivering some darkly funny moments as she hurls profanities and calls out her children’s sneaky behavior despite them playing innocent, while also bringing a much needed emotional fragility to help aid the direction the story takes in the second and third act. There is no way to describe Otto other than one of the best cinematic mothers of the year so far!

As a directorial debut from YouTubers Danny and Michael Philippou, there is some much to praise of their direction of the film. The tone is deeply disturbing and creates the perfect atmosphere for the story to unfold in. There is a deep sense of grief that permeates off the screen, while their framing of each scene creates some wonderful set pieces and jump scares throughout the film. While they could have tightened up the first act in my opinion, it’s a promising debut that has me excited for these two brothers will conjure up next.

While it does not have the unforgettable quality that will haunt audiences for the rest of their days that past A24 horror films, there is something undeniably sinister about Talk to Me that is certain to generate screams in packed cinemas and a few nights worth of nightmares. Thanks to a great young cast with scene stealing performances from Joe Bird and Miranda Otto, Danny and Michael Philippou have a certified hit on their hands with Talk to Me that will have your heart racing as the film hurtles towards its terrifying and unfathomable ending that you won’t soon forget.

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