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  • Rev Horror

Talk To Me

Dir. Danny & Michael Philippou (2022)

The detached hand of a psychic is used by a group of teens to contact the dead.


A24 has a history of releasing some pretty incredible movies, generally arthouse style cinema that transcends the boundaries of what most other indie studios are putting out. Granted, it's tough to consider A24 "indie" anymore, as they're now seemingly the go-to studio if you want your movie to be a huge hit with the fans. Talk To Me, the new film from directors Danny and Michael Philippou, is the most recent in their lineup of high-brow horror, and while it definitely contains some decent scares and a pretty unique plot, it falls more along the line of standard teen horror. It's good, but it never really sought to push any boundaries and instead is a cookie-cutter release that is more at home with a house party than it would be showing at the Met.

Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. Mia (a truly excellent debut for Sophia Wilde) has recently lost her mother and seeks solace in friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and ex-beau-ish Daniel (Otis Dhanji). She is clearly an adopted member of Jade's family, slotting firmly into the Big Sister role for Jade's brother Riley (Joe Bird) and spending as much time as possible with her fellow teens instead of her devastated father, Max (Marcus Johnson). Mia and Jade are just looking for fun, latching onto the local party phenomenon presented by their peers Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio), in which the detached hand of a psychic is used to summon the dead and invite them into a temporary possession. Things start to go awry when Riley, allowed to use the hand despite the forbiddance by his sister, summons Mia's deceased mother, ending in catastrophe and propelling the rest of the film when the ghosts decide they're not ready to leave.

The film is touted as one of the scariest in years, and while it ultimately fails in attaining those heights, it is still excellently done terror. The cinematography and sound design is stellar, showing the quality of film that would gravitate more towards A24 than other smaller studios. It's impressively well-made, a movie that feels just about as polished as possible without over-relying on genre schticks that have long gone stale. The writing is fantastic as well, this low-brow concept of social media hauntings being elevated by an insistence that this is not just another teen horror film. The rare levity brought by the funnier moments work perfectly to balance the horror that unfolds, and the clever final act serves to further the more lofty aspirations of the film.

Talk To Me also knows what it has, refusing to separate itself fully from "teen horror" while dipping its toes into the more heavy themes of grief, empathy, and family. While the possession sequences have been done before and don't look particularly unique, the performances are the star of the show, especially newcomer Wilde, who blows the doors off the role and will likely be working for a long time off the back of this role. It can feel overdone to once again be talking about grief within the confines of horror, but the film's refusal to indict a "bad guy" really helps it stay grounded. Even the naughty teens in possession of the hand are more than happy to help when shit gets real, an excellent departure from the normal narcissistic, self-obsessed kids who usually populate movies like this.

While it's difficult to imagine Talk To Me becoming a franchise (as it should definitely be a standalone film), it's a movie that is intriguing in its potential to usher in a new breed of horror. It's rare that teen horror feels the pulse of the rest of the genre, the normal tendency of course being to create dumb popcorn movies that don't need to be analyzed too much below the surface area. Talk To Me definitely dives a little bit further down, showing promise in that perhaps other filmmakers (or even the Philippou's themselves) could potentially be opening the door for more contemplative films for the younger set.

The over-argued plot of ghosts used as a metaphor for grief and loss is presented in an at-least-somewhat fresh take, driven by Wilde's nuanced take on someone trying to fit into her new changed world. I walked out of the theater knowing that I hadn't seen anything particularly groundbreaking but also aware that it could change the game if filmmakers are paying attention. There's enough in Talk To Me to please even the most cynical horror fan, despite its relative lack of scares. For a film riding the boundary between teen and adult horror, it accomplishes its goals completely while allowing for further dissection of what makes horror work. For that alone, the film is definitely worth a watch and could easily be one that the horror audience looks back on in reverence.

Who this movie is for: Teen horror fans with a refined palate, Jumpscare haters, One-armed mediums

Bottom line: While Talk To Me isn't particularly groundbreaking, it's still a refreshing take on teen horror with some truly excellent performances. Star Sophie Wilde blew me away, but the entire cast is excellent and the film has enough humor to lighten the mood before shaking you up. It's not going to be the scariest movie of the year, despite the excellent advertising, but its impactful, incredibly well-done, and achieves a search for meaning that is sorely missing from most horror of its caliber. This is one that is a must watch.

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