Each and every year there’s THAT horror film that shakes things up. Hits the festival circuit and creates a tidal wave-sized buzz. Sometimes it’s deserved and sometimes it’s not. In the case of 2023’s festival darling Talk to Me, the buzz is profoundly deserved.
Directed by Australian newcomers, Danny and Michael Philipou, Talk to Me follows an exceptionally tight and integrated family. In an almost Speilbergian manner, the film carefully and humorously explores the familial bond as it wanders through the trials and tribulations of the spirit world.
Mia (Sophie Wild) is a stepdaughter dealing with addiction-related trauma from her mom’s recent suicide. She’s close to her stepsister Jade (Alexandra Jensen), but even closer to her stepbrother Riley (Joe Bird). The teen trio is tightly aligned and exceptionally supportive of one another.
If you’re looking for slow-burn horror then look elsewhere. Talk to Me is all gas and no breaks! From the opening jump Talk to Me establishes not one but two exceptionally shocking scenes of horror and mayhem.
Mia quickly deduces the original source of the horror but immediately discounts it as an internet hoax. Teens at the local high school have come in contact with a paranormal talisman. It’s the hand of a former psychic/empath who had the ability to contact the dead. The hand is now encased in a plaster prison, but it’s clearly a hand, and it clearly has dark powers.
When teens come in contact with the hand it provides a drug-like hallucination. They’ve been told that the contact with the hand comes with a handy catchphrase to connect with the beyond, and a definite 90 second limit. If you don’t release the hand within 90 seconds then you’re either stuck in the trance-like state or you’re potentially pulled into the great beyond. What’s a randy teen to do? Try it of course!
The paralyzed trance provides instant social media infamy. It’s hysterical, mysterious, and provides the uncertain danger that all teens crave. Mia and her siblings don’t necessarily believe the internet hokum until they’re invited to a party where the dark arts procession is going down.
Through a series of rather funny vignettes involving each of the teens giving the hand a try, the directors establish a wonderful yet chaotic bouillabaisse of peer pressure and social media desires. Mia eventually tries the hand and loves it, but it’s not until Jade’s boyfriend makes contact with the next world that things go fairly and quickly off the rails. Within his 90-second trance, he’s able to make contact with Mia’s dead mother, and that, for her, is enough to convince her that she needs to get to the bottom of her mother’s suicide.
With teen invincibility under their belts, the group of friends repeatedly makes contact with the spirit world. Eventually, young Riley makes contact with something far more sinister and he’s thrown into a horrifying scene of self-inflicted violence. Think of the scene with the brother in Hereditary, where he bangs his head against his desk — then multiply it by five or even ten. It’s brutal, bloody, and painful to watch.
Even with young Riley in the hospital and everyone convinced Mia has lost her mind, she continuously seeks out connection and closure with her deceased mother. Her quest and the brutality of the spirits never cease. It’s safe to say that the gore and corollary scares are the kind of visuals that will stick with audiences for years to come.
The film does come to a crashing conclusion, but it may not be quite the conclusion that audiences will necessarily expect. Given prior visions in the film, the conclusion is a tad vague and a little coy about how the cursed hand really functions. No matter the final scenes, Talk to Me is a very original take on a well-trod trope. By allowing audiences to truly interact with teen angst, pain, and maybe even remember their own peer pressure-driven experiences, the directors manage to turn out THE film that we’ll all be talking about at the end of 2023.
Talk to Me is definitely Rated R and currently making its way through the festival circuit. It is scheduled to be released on July 28th, 2023.