Talk to Me

Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippouo
Starring: Sophie Wilde, Jayden Davison, Joe Bird, Miranda Otto, Otis Dhanji, Chris Alosio, Zoe Terakes, Marcus Johnson
Distributor: Umbrella Films
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in Aug 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong horror themes, violence and coarse language

When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.

The phrase ‘Talk to me’ sounds inoffensive enough, almost an invitation. However, it can be heard as abrupt and commanding. Here it is what a group of teens say when they gather for a party and begin a weird process.

This Australian, small-budget film begins with a moment of ordinariness – a young man comes to a party, looking for his troubled brother. There is a stabbing, and the brother kills himself.

Then the film moves to the youngsters who are central to the film. We see the friends at school, bonding, going to parties. The central character is Mia, a commanding performance by Wilde, something of a loner in the group. Her mother has probably killed herself, she is distant from her father, and reliant on her close friend Jayden (Davison) staying over at her home, friendly with her younger brother, Riley (Bird), although under suspicion from the hard-working and sometimes tough mother, Sue (Otto).

As we wonder what the connection is with the dramatic prologue, we get to know some of the youngsters. There’s Jayden, rather restrained but joining in; Mia quiet but vivacious, two rather boisterous friends, Hayley and Joss, who introduce to the group a mysterious hand they have acquired. It’s a ceramic hand, but there is the suggestion of a real hand within, and writing and scrawl all over the ceramics. There is something of a craze going about, especially for thrill-seekers. Someone is dared to take hold of the hand, recite ‘talk to me’ and then, more than a touch mesmerised, to say ‘let me in’. So, this is a possession-horror film, and, for a limited number of seconds, the hand-holder is possessed, thrust back, contorted, taken over. And, being the 21st century, all the excited participants have their phones out filming everything. A ritual candle is lit then has to be blown out, and that is at the end of the possession.

Mia agrees to the experience – a frightening face, letting the person in, convulsed, the audience wondering whether this is a death experience, and then it is over, everybody laughing and excited. It seems as though this is going to become a craze with everybody wanting to try it out – with a touch of becoming addicted to the experience. (Obviously a parable parallel to drugs and other intoxicants.)

As expected, several of the people want to go through the experience, especially Daniel, who is close to both Mia and Jayden – and, for him, a hugely embarrassing, psyche-revealing experience of being possessed. But, Jayden’s younger brother Riley also wants the experience. Mia encourages him because she has been having experiences of her dead mother and wants to connect with her. The drama is in Riley being taken over, Mia allowing him to go beyond the allotted time. However, the candle is not blown out so Riley is being continually possessed, brutally bashing his head against the wall and taken to hospital for recovery. Tension among Mia and Jayden and her suspicious mother grow.

While it has some of the tropes from horror films, it does a disservice to Talk to Me to describe it as such. It is better described as a possession drama and the consequences, combined with some issues of family relationships. The film builds to conflict for Mia, her wanting to right the situation, for Riley to heal and stop the torment, her seeing visions of the strange and bizarre possessing souls, and a climax which will lead us to?

(This is the first feature of twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou who have spent 10 years creating video dramas for YouTube and gaining more than one million followers – and selling this film for North American distribution for a price that more than paid for the film itself.)

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