"I let you in": A review of the Philippou brothers' Talk To Me (2023)

"I let you in": A review of the Philippou brothers' Talk To Me (2023)

Review by TNHC's Editorial Director, Emily Malone.

Talk to Me immerses us in a world where clairvoyance becomes a vice. It gives us traumatic, shocking moments that are earnt, not gratuitous. A real, emotional connection with the central characters played by a brilliant cast. Plus, a clever use of social media that's purposeful and not gimmicky, which probably comes from the directors' social media backgrounds. 

I don't know if you guys are aware of Australian twins Danny and Michael Philippou, but they began in 2013 with a YouTube channel called RackaRacka, which is known for its gritty horror comedy sketches. Transitioning from quick, engaging online content to the expansive realm of filmmaking is a monumental leap, both creatively and logistically. But with this debut feature film, they've masterfully demonstrated their passion, adaptability, and talent as filmmakers. 

Through Talk to Me, the Philippou brothers have crafted something that is, at its core, a study of human emotion and frailty, played out against a backdrop of supernatural dread. And their deep love for the genre really shines through. 

In the opening moments, a poignant encounter with a dying kangaroo is an unsettling metaphor for the larger themes the film grapples with: the gnawing effects of guilt, the desire to communicate with the dead, and the dangerous allure of escaping reality, even if only temporarily.

Sophie Wilde delivers a standout performance as Mia, a character drowning in her own sorrow and guilt. Her journey into the supernatural, fueled by a virally circulated TikTok-esque video of grinning teens with black eyes grasping a ceramic hand, becomes less about seeking cheap thrills and more about a desperate attempt to connect with her deceased mother.

The "Talk to Me" game, with its eerie haunted limb and chilling incantations, is brilliantly conceived, providing the film's supernatural thrust without overshadowing its deeper thematic layers.

While the concept of communicating with the dead is hardly new in the horror genre, Talk to Me refreshes this trope with its contemporary lens. It highlights the human yearning for connection and escape, exacerbated in a digital age that amplifies both these needs. The film's foray into the ethereal isn't just about ghostly encounters; it also becomes a powerful commentary on addiction, showcasing Mia's deteriorating obsession with the game.

The supporting cast, including Alexandra Jensen and Miranda Otto, further elevate the narrative, adding layers of complexity and tension. Joe Bird, as young Riley, plays a pivotal role, serving as the unsuspecting victim of Mia's recklessness. The consequences of which make for some of the film's most harrowing sequences — sequences that I sometimes watched through my hands.

From the outset, it's clear that this mysterious, five-digit gateway to the beyond carries some bad vibes, as evidenced by a prologue concluding in a grisly murder-suicide. When our protagonists find themselves lured to a house party via the aforementioned viral video, the hand becomes a bit of a "double-dare-you" challenge, promising immediate popularity and acceptance to those brave enough to engage.

Talk to Me is a chilling, intelligent, and introspective take on horror. It provides more than just scares; it offers a mirror into our own souls and the lengths we might go to escape our demons. With a prequel already in the works, it's a must-watch for both horror fans and those seeking a profound cinematic experience, with traumatic scares akin to THAT scene in Hereditary. You know the one.

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