Talk to Me is an uncompromising horror debut for Australian horror duo, Danny and Michael Philippou.
PLOT: A group of Australian teens use an embalmed hand to communicate with the dead.
REVIEW: If there’s one thing you can rely on in horror movies is that a group of hard-partying teens are typically doomed. The kids in Talk to Me are a pretty mixed-up bunch, with them making an ill-advised decision to use an embalmed hand which allows them to host a spirit as long as they are in contact with the hand. The rule is if they have you for more than ninety seconds, you might be stuck with the spirit, and if you die with the spirit still in you, they have you forever. So why do the kids keep playing with the undead? Because apparently, being possessed feels fantastic, even if you lose all control and do messed-up things such as, in one moment, French kissing a dog.
Of course, you can bet that before long, the game goes awry, and indeed, Talk to Me, which comes from Australian duo Danny and Michael Philippou, winds up being edge-of-your-seat stuff. A24 was smart to acquire what might turn out to be the most explosive Australian horror flick since The Babadook. The two directors are known for their RackaRacka Youtube channel, and they prove themselves to be potent new genre voices.
With a nod towards the famous tale of “The Monkey’s Paw” and Flatliners, the concept behind Talk to Me defies belief. But, if you can’t just go with the idea, being that some teens get ownership of an embalmed hand with evil powers, maybe this isn’t for you. Everyone else will enjoy how balls to the wall it goes in terms of horror. While A24 is best known for elevated, art-house horror, Talk to Me is more like J-horror but given a modern make-over.
Typically in a movie that deals with the afterlife, you have a traumatized hero, and Sophie Wilde’s Mia fills the role nicely. Her mother recently committed suicide, and she’s shut out her good-natured father, Marcus Johnson’s Max. Instead, she spends time with a surrogate family led by Miranda Otto’s Sue, whose daughter Jade (Alexandra Jensen) is Mia’s best friend. Jade’s little brother, Riley (Joe Bird), looks up to Mia, but this family unit is torn apart once Jade gets addicted to the evil hand and, most ill-advisedly of all, allows Riley to have a turn.
The Philippou’s go all out here, with some genuinely hideous make-up effects, bringing to mind The Evil Dead, while scenes of the purgatory the possessed people wind up in bring to mind Event Horizon. The cast is terrific, with Wilde an appealing heroine. However, Joe Bird is best, with him perhaps delivering the best “possessed performance” since Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
A24 likely has a significant horror hit on its hands. Horror fans will love it, although some of the imagery is disturbing. This is especially true of an early sequence depicting a wounded, dying kangaroo. It’s highly unsettling and thoroughly entertaining. The Philippou’s likely have huge careers ahead of them.