Talk to Me (2022)

by - July 28th, 2023 - Movie Reviews


The Afterlife is Calling in Terrifyingly Relentless Talk to Me

Teenager Mia (Sophie Wilde) has not gotten over her mom’s supposedly accidental death a year prior. She’s estranged from her father Max (Marcus Johnson) and spends most of her time over at the house of her classmate Jade (Alexandra Jensen), where she tutors her best friend’s younger brother, Riley (Joe Bird). The pair’s workaholic — yet still highly observant — mother Sue (Miranda Otto) thinks of Mia as a de facto member of the family, and she’s happy she can be there to support the emotionally fragile 17-year-old.

Talk to Me (2022) | PHOTO: A24

Another student from their school, a notorious hooligan named Haley (Zoe Terakes), has been filming a series of viral videos at house parties, in which willing participants appear to go into some sort of hypnotic trance after coming into contact with a creepy ceramic hand and whispering “talk to me” to an unseen visitor. Mia is keen to take part in one of these paranormal sessions and, after doing so, becomes obsessed with continuing to let herself become possessed by the spirits of the recently deceased.

Audiences sitting down to watch Talk to Me will not be surprised to learn that this is a very bad idea. The more Mia does this, like an addict excitedly looking for their next fix, the more she wants to keep grabbing that spooky hand. But events take a disastrous turn after Riley sits down for a session and ends up a comatose vegetable, clinging to life in the hospital — and it only gets worse from there.

Working from an original concept conceived by writer Daley Pearson, filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou pull out all the stops in their feature-length narrative debut. The opening third to their lean, mean, and at times gleefully chilling horror yarn is darn near perfect. The way they introduce their main characters, how they set things up, Mia’s first encounter with the mysterious hand, and her initial forays into psychologically scarring madness — it’s all stupendous.

Everything builds to the aftermath of Riley’s use of the hand, and what happens then is a magically terrifying whirl of sudden violence, ugly self-mutilation, and unimaginable familial trauma. The reactions from Jade and Sue are suffocating in their emotional purity, and I loved how the Philippou brothers refuse to sugarcoat their anger, vitriol, and distrust pointed directly at Mia. It’s potent stuff, and not only does it isolate the teen from those she’d grown closest to since her mother’s death, but it also gives her a potent reason to overcome the demons — potentially imagined, likely all too real — assaulting her since she first grabbed that hand.

Wilde is extraordinary. While I’m getting a little tired of watching horror films about characters dealing with their grief after the death of a loved one, this does not diminish a single ounce of the mesmeric power fueling the actor’s masterful performance. She digs deep, revealing Mia’s scars with a subtly heartrending specificity that’s astonishing.

As for the Philippous, they are never anything other than in complete control of the material. Mia’s first foray into the afterlife is stunning, and things only get better from there. While jump scares are left to a minimum, when they are utilized, they are done so with such organic precision that they have a profound impact on the proceedings. The pair also ramp up the energy level considerably after Riley ends up in the hospital, and this gives Mia’s race against time to save her friend’s life an added layer of ticking-clock urgency that sent shivers up my spine and left me covering my mouth in slack-jawed shock on more than one occasion.

Talk to Me (2022) | PHOTO: A24

The last third does leave a little to be desired. Based on the rules for the hand’s usage and its potential dangers that they spell out early on, there are not a ton of unexpected places for the Philippous to go. This diminishes a fair amount of their film’s unnerving charm, and as well directed and suitably authentic as the climax may be, this is still the only section that I found underwhelming. It’s fine, and I’m certain the majority of viewers will be satisfied, but I admit to wanting more.

Even with that being the case, Talk to Me is a lot of unsettling fun. The Philippous show tremendous promise, and Wilde has the entrancing screen presence to become a major star sooner rather than later. The first hour of the picture is some of the best horror filmmaking I’ve seen in ages, and a few of the key set pieces are petrifying in their relentlessness. The afterlife is calling, and I’m more than satisfied that I chose to answer and hear what it had to say.

– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle

Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)

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