THE STORY – Conjuring spirits has become the latest local party craze, and looking for a distraction on the anniversary of her mother’s death, teenage Mia (Sophie Wilde) is determined to get a piece of the otherworldly action. When her group of friends gathers for another unruly séance with the mysterious embalmed hand that promises a direct line to the spirits, they’re unprepared for the consequences of bending the rules through prolonged contact. As the boundary between worlds collapses and disturbing supernatural visions increasingly haunt Mia, she rushes to undo the horrific damage before it’s irreversible.
THE CAST – Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji & Zoe Terakes
THE TEAM – Danny Philippou (Director/Writer), Michael Philippou (Director) & Bill Hinzman (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes
Horror is going through a depressive spell. Depicting the bleakest aspects of daily life through scary imagery is nothing new for movies, but lately, upsetting, hopeless films seem to dominate the genre. “Talk to Me” is such a film, but not one of those divisive horror tales completely reliant on atmosphere and mood to scare its audiences. It’s a nasty, gnarly movie filled with horrifying imagery presented in a way meant to frighten viewers in the moment and also stick with them long after the credits roll.
A group of teens has taken their thrill-seeking to a new extreme. When one of them comes into possession of an embalmed hand, they take to using it at parties to enable brief spiritual possessions of each other. When things eventually go too far, Mia (Sophie Wilde) must find a way to close the unholy connection with the dead and face her own traumatic past.
Smartly, “Talk to Me” takes its time getting to the point where the horror is unrelenting. This mirrors how the characters experience the terrifying situations they face – at first, the scares are brief and exciting, but they eventually become all-consuming and inescapable. To achieve this wise pacing choice, the film does have to inject a bit of cliché inter-character drama into its story. A will-they-won’t-they subplot between the main character and her friend feels particularly unnecessary. But again, without padding like this, the film might not be able to build in the intelligent and affecting way it does.
It can’t be understated how distressing some of the moments in “Talk to Me” are. The film doesn’t hold back on putting its characters – most of them children – through some of the most horrifying situations imaginable. Bodies are demolished, traumas are revisited, and lives are destroyed. The visualization of the ghosts and the realm that they inhabit are particularly effective in adding to the film’s scary energy.
Besides the contemporary details like smartphones and the characters’ vocabulary, the story of “Talk to Me” is as old-fashioned as they come. Its cautionary vibe and unhappy mood are reminiscent of old-world folk stories meant to frighten children into obedience. In that way, it’s a direct line to horror stories of yore, told around the fire and surrounded by darkness.