Movie Review: ‘Talk to Me,’ starring, Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jenson
It’s tough to find a really good, original horror film these days. Last years ‘Smile’ was a decent attempt that I enjoyed, and there were a handful of other films that were good as well, but so far this year, we haven’t gotten much in the way of good horror films. That is about to change.
‘Talk to Me’ is the directorial debut of Danny and Michael Philippou that is a 95-minute adrenaline pumping, spine-tingling journey.
It takes a lot to scare me. In fact, I find myself more terrified by films that don’t try to use jumpy tactics to scare me. I prefer my horror to be psychological. I’m the type of person that enjoys a movie that will have me walking out of the theater asking myself, “What the f#ck did I just see?”
‘Talk to Me,’ I’m delighted to say, is one of those films.
Here’s the premise of this horror masterpiece: A group of Australian teens stumble across a new fad on social media, ala TikTok. See, it’s already blending fiction with reality. A ceramic hand, that allegedly contains a human hand inside of it, can open conversations with the souls of those who have passed on. Mia, played by Sophie Wilde in a star-making performance, along with her friend Jade, played by Alexandra Jensen, attend a party with their friends and attempt to see if they can reach out to some of the dead. The pair are best friends with a long backstory that includes Mia losing her mother to a drug overdose.
The friends get to see the hand’s power in action for 90 seconds while experimenting with it. All those in the room get to witness the user have a type of out of body, euphoric experience as different spirits inhabit the participant’s body. If the 90 seconds is exceeded, the spirits can take total control. At first it seems like it’s all fun and games, but then Mia contacts her dead mother and things get out of control.
What makes this film so fascinating and exceptional is not just the creepiness, but the fact that the story is about losing connections with those we care about and honestly, just being downright alone. It’s an eerie feeling that may hit too close to home for some, given what many may have experienced during the pandemic. Again, I like my horror with a lot of realism.
After seeing ‘Talk to Me’, one film that really came to mind was ‘Flatliners’, the Joel Schumacher cult-classic featuring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon. No, not the shitty remake from a few years ago. That film was about a group of med students who die momentarily, making contact with the dead. Far from perfect, yet a good move in it’s own right, Flatliners was also about loss and loneliness. It has a sense of realism to go with the special effects.
Where ‘Talk to Me’ really stands out to me is the lack of special effects. The directors achieve the tension in the movies by using quick edits and cool tricks with the camera, something that has become a lost art in filmmaking if you ask me.
Another thing I loved about the film was that the Philippous do the opposite of what’s expected. In most horror films, the audience will see the monster before the character does or the monster will startle the audience, not in ‘Talk to Me’. The film relies on the characters’ reactions before the audience sees the monster. It adds so much more tension to the film. I literally didn’t want to look at times.
Finally, where most horror films rely on blood and guts and special effects, this is a refreshing step away from that trend. This film, much like ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘Hereditary’, and ‘MidSommer’, relies on the performances of the actors. In order for this to work, it requires strong performances from everyone. Wilde, in particular, gives a more than noteworthy performance and will likely garner a lot of attention from this role. She literally takes over the screen at every scene in the film in just her second film. Thoughts of Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween danced in my head after I saw this movie. Wilde is that damn good.
Overall, ‘Talk to Me’ doesn’t rely on over the top effects, a high body count, or even jumpy scares, it’s a rare breed of horror movie. It is creative, yet creepy. It is horrifying, yet realistic. In short, it’s as good as it gets for horror films so far in 2023.
‘Talk to Me’ gets an A-.