We’re at a crowded house party where a young man, Cole, is trying to locate his brother Duckett. After asking several people about Duckett’s whereabouts, he eventually finds him locked inside a bedroom. Cole breaks down the door, and an injured and confused Duckett comes out, babbling about how he thinks Cole is someone or something else. After walking together into the living room, Duckett suddenly stabs Cole and shortly afterwards himself, right in the face. Total panic among the partygoers ensues, and we then shift over to the next scene where we meet 17 year old Mia who is struggling with the second anniversary of her mother’s death. She lives with her father, who she’s got a distant relationship with. One evening she sneaks out with her best friend Jade, with Jade’s younger brother Riley, to attend a houseparty where they have a certain spooky attraction: a severed, embalmed hand which is said to have belonged to a powerful medium. If you light a candle and touch this hand while uttering the phrase “talk to me”, you’ll see a spirit. If you continue with the phrase “I let you in”, you’ll be possessed by said spirit. All fun and games, as long as the candle and ritual is broken before ninety seconds have passed. But soon they will see what happens once the ninety second timelimit has passed, and the dire consequences of it…
Talk to Me is a 2022 Australian supernatural horror film, directed by the brothers Danny and Michael Philippou as their directorial debut. The duo is known for their YouTube channel RackaRacka, which they created in 2013, where they have had intense live action horror comedy videos. Talk to Me had its first screening in 2022 at the Adelaide Film Festival, and its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It’s been quite hyped and well received, and a sequel is already in development.
When it comes to Australian horror, we have so far reviewed the well-known The Babadook, the re-discovered Lake Mungo, and the lesser known movies Relic and The Tunnel, and the very obscure The Next of Kin. And here’s another solid entry for the list: Talk to Me, which has gotten a fair amount of praise and attention.
Many horror stories about people playing with the occult just for the shits n’ giggles ends up with a tragic outcome, so as you can expect the embalmed hand goes from being the life of the party to a life-shattering threat. We get the story fueled from the start by a dramatic and violent opening scene, which does of course have a significance as to what is happening with the mysterious hand. Then we have the classic grieving protagonist, looking for closure, comfort, or anything that can fill the void of grief inside them. Yes, it’s not all that original, but sometimes a little bit of clichés is what works well together with something new into the mix. Other than the tired Ouija-board session, we now have an embalmed hand which requires a handshake from you. The hand is letting you into the supernatural world with a small glimpse, but at the same time leaving the decision of how far it should go up to you. The people possessed are literally asking for it, not giving a hoot about consequences, and I guess this could serve as a metaphor for drug use. The visitation into the spirit world is enticing and hard to resist, and thus they keep doing it and doing it in the way they consider “safe”, until the safety rules are broken of course and things go too far.
The characters in Talk to Me serve mostly as bricks to fuel and explain the main character’s actions. Mia, the protagonist in the story, often comes off as quite self-centered and even a little unsympathetic at times. She’s grieving, but at the same time fails to see that others have their problems too, and she’s so absorbed with her own needs. And that’s exactly what eventually makes Riley’s session turn awfully bad. While the ghost/demonic possession in this movie doesn’t take it to the lengths we found in the splendid Evil Dead Rise earlier this year, it does portray it very effectively and manages to be creepy and dread-inducing without being over the top.
While Talk to Me isn’t ever really scary, it is certainly very suspenseful and creepy, and keeps the tension up throughout. I also liked the dark closing scene, it really gave the film a satisfying ending.
Directors: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Writers: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson
Country & year: Australia, 2022
Actors: Sophie Wilde, Marcus Johnson, Joe Bird, Alexandra Jensen, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes