Australian horror Talk To Me has certainly got people talking. Audiences were buzzing following its premiere in the Midnight slot at Sundance. The film also clearly spoke to A24 who have acquired the rights to distribute in the US. They are probably creating a promotional hand candle to sell on their online shop as we speak.
The notion of A24 becoming involved may set alarm bells ringing for some. Fearing a critic may utter the dreaded phrase “elevated horror”. Thankfully those fears are completely unfounded because directors Danny & Michael Philippou deliver a chiller that is lean, very mean and bound to elicit a lot of screams.
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. Opening the door to the spirit world forcing them to choose who to trust: the dead or the living.
The plot itself might not be the most original. It draws upon elements featured in films such as Flatliners and Truth of Dare. Plus arguably, the Monkey’s Paw episode of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Halloween Special. However that does not matter if it is executed with flair and talent.
It is given a fresh Gen Z twist by having the teens see the contacting of spirits as a fantastic way to create viral videos. Of course, things go wrong when someone seemingly makes a connection with a dead relative and breaks the 90 second rule. Resulting in the walls between dimensions becoming dangerously blurred.
Things go wrong for the teens (because, duh, it is a horror movie) however things go extremely right for the filmmakers and, as a result, the audience.
The Philippous’ made their name with the RackaRacka YouTube channel and transition seamlessly to the big screen with this debut.
They set out their stall with an opening sequence all shot in one take that culminates in a shocking act of violence. A cold open that immediately puts the audience on the back foot with no idea of what’s happened. All bets are off going forward.
They say it is all fun and games until someone loses an eye and the film is keenly aware of this. It knows exactly when to pull the rug out from under the characters and viewers. Capable of taking a seemingly safe scene and dialling the danger and fear up to 11 in an instant.
Cornel Wilczek’s score, Aaron McLiskey’s cinematography and Geoff Lamb’s editing allow for the two worlds to bleed together with an ever-increasing sense of dread. Yet it remains anchored by Sophia Wilde’s strong performance as the traumatised Mia.
That sense of dread, coupled with some truly horrifying images, permeate through the screen and will stay with audiences long after the end credits.
Talk To Me is the horror film of the year, hands down. Ironically given the premise, the film’s success will be driven by word of mouth. One thing is for sure. It is guaranteed to make anyone think twice before telling someone to “talk to the hand”!
Talk To Me screened at the Sundance Film Festival
Director: Danny Philippou & Michael Philippou
Stars: Sophie Wilde, Joe Bird, Alexandra Jensen, Miranda Otto
Runtime: 94 minutes