Movie Review: Talk To Me
In a relatively short time, independent studio A24 has quickly garnered a reputation as the home of modern horror/thriller cinema. Bone chillers like Midsommar and Hereditary, feathery- sharp teen-horror like Bodies Bodies Bodies are but a few of the films under this production house’s umbrella. They’ve shown time and again they are not afraid to give new filmmakers a chance. In true indie fashion, A24 has given the opportunity to two Youtubers, Danny and Michael Philippou, to direct their first feature flick. Enter Talk to Me, which is a bold debut, leaning on classic horror tropes but doing more than enough to stand out amongst the increasingly bigger pool of horror dreck.
Talk to Me follows Mia (a sensational Sophie Wilde), a teen dealing with her mother’s accidental overdose. She and her friends Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Riley (Joe Bird) meet a group of friends who claim to have an embalmed hand that allows them to communicate with spirits. It’s all fun and games until someone takes it too far, and the spirits follow the users into our world (I really like the idea of a handshake, the global sign of connection being how the embalmed hand connects the user to the spirits. It turns an innocuous symbol of interdependence into something more
For a fairly common horror trope, Talk to Me is an impressive take on what could’ve otherwise been a tired cliche due to both its script and pacing. There is a modernity to the script and performances that is sorely missing in the big tentpole horror films of the year (The Nun II; The Pope’s Exorcist, I’m staring directly at you). The picture spends a lot of time establishing the relationship between Jade, Riley and Mia and, crucially, the withering relationship between Mia and her father.
It’s bold for a horror film, but the choice to show the bond between the characters is a very smart choice that pays off when the chaos ensues. The film is paced very strongly, smartly interspersing the possession scenes (shot brilliantly, with superb practical effects and really fun camera work that helps detail precisely what the characters are seeing and going through) with family drama. Eventually, someone goes too far, and the spirits from the hand step through the void and follow one of the characters home.
Sophie Wilde is the clear star of the flick, with her skinny, almost gaunt frame standing in stark contrast to her large-as-dinner-plates eyes. When conversing with the spirits, she encounters her mother’s soul, and this starts a chain reaction that drives the latter half of the picture. As the emotional anchor, her performance tugs at your heartstrings, almost making you rationalise her actions. My main issues with the film surround the
third act, precisely the ending of the film.
Avoiding spoilers, it just comes off a little rushed as character motivations, previously easy to follow, become muddled and very coincidental. Maybe it’s a consequence of the relatively brief 90-minute runtime, but I was left dissatisfied, even if the final shot of the movie is pretty smart. Overall, I quite liked Talk to Me. It’s an easy film to recommend to horror fans and is a triumph of independent filmmaking. Huge props to both Philippou brothers and of course, A24, which is quickly proving to be the most interesting film studio outside the big boys.