Talk to Me (2022)

Talk to MeWe’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.

 

Talk to Me

 

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
IMDb:
www.imdb.com/title/tt10638522/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Visitors (2003)

Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) is a stubborn and strong-willed young woman: she’s decided to travel around the world in her 44-foot sloop, all by herself (well, almost…she’s got her cat for company). Being used to spending time at sea, and also spending time alone, it goes pretty well at first. She’s used to enjoying her own company, and the cat provides just enough social comfort. Then, the solitude starts taking its toll…while starting with small and insignificant things like starting to talk to her cat…which isn’t uncommon…I mean, who doesn’t talk to their feline companion once in a while? Except, of course, the cat starts talking back to her. A big red flag for her mental well being there, all right. But when she also starts hearing strange noises, and a mysterious fog appears which brings with it a whole array of deceased family members who have suddenly decided to drop in for a visit, it’s time to take it seriously. Is this just a severe case of cabin fever, or is something else happening at sea?

 

Visitors is a psychological thriller directed by Richard Franklin (most known for directing Psycho 2) where nearly all of the playtime happens out at the big blue ocean. While it’s not a truly scary film, it does have a few chilling moments with creepy atmosphere and some interesting scenes. Georgia’s “ghosts” aren’t only appearing during nighttime, either, but in bright daylight as well, adding to the feeling of claustrophobia as there’s no escape. In a haunted house, you can always run outside…but what can you do if the haunting happens in a boat, far out at sea? Nothing of course, unless you want to jump aboard and drown yourself.

 

While Visitors is an okay thriller, it’s not faultless, and there are some rather questionable CGI effects which diminishes the creepy atmosphere a bit. There’s also some scenes that are chugging along a little bit too slowly. Still, overall the movie is an okay watch, mostly for its deep dive into human psychology and the effect of being alone over a long period of time, in surroundings where there’s no one and nothing for miles upon miles. It’s strange how the ocean can appear to be so open, but still so claustrophobic…no matter where you turn, there’s no rescue, nowhere to find refuge.

 

If you’re looking to get your toes wet with a movie that provides a good amount of action, I guess something like Deep Rising would be a safer bet. Visitors is a slow-burning thriller with some creepy scenes and atmosphere, and people that can relate to the idea of being all alone, while haunted by your inner demons, will probably appreciate this movie the most.

 

Visitors

 

Director: Richard Franklin
Writer: Everett De Roche
Country & year: Australia, 2003
Actors: Radha Mitchell, Susannah York, Ray Barrett, Dominic Purcell, Tottie Goldsmith, Che Timmins, Christopher Kirby, Jan Friedl, Soula Alexander, Roberta Connelly, Michelle McClatchy,
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0301989/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tunnel (2011)

the tunnel 2011 reviewThe New South Wales State government plans to recycle the huge amounts of trapped water in a network of abandoned train tunnels. However, these plans suddenly come to a halt, and publicly no one is ever told why. Rumors are spreading, like how homeless people using the tunnels end up going missing. This brings a young journalist, Natasha, to start an investigation into what she thinks is some kind of government cover-up. She and her crew decide to enter the tunnels and look for answers, but after being refused entry by a security guard, they do of course find an alternative entrance into the place. While exploring the tunnels, they start hearing strange noises through the audio headphones, and when one of the crew members go missing they eventually realize that they might not be alone in these deep, dark tunnels.

 

The Tunnel is a crowd-funded Australian horror film made in the mockumentary style (faux documentary), directed by Carlo Ledesma and written by Enzo Tedeschi and Julian Harvey. While found footage movies have pretty much become dime-a-dozen these days, it is still a format that can be quite effective. By the time of this movie’s release back in 2011, Australia already had an other gem in their mockumentary-horror repertoire: Lake Mungo from 2008, a movie that’s mostly been obscure and little known but have had some kind of re-discovery as of late. While Lake Mungo is a movie that plays more on loss and grief with some supernatural vibes underneath, The Tunnel hits heavier on the creep-keys with atmospheric scenery and things going wrong in the dark. It does have a fair amount of creep factor and plays a lot on the fear of what might be lurking in the dark, and the creepy setting helps to set the mood. The claustrophobic and dark atmosphere is pretty much what carries the movie, and easily manages to give you a whiff of the heebie jeebies since the darkness implies more than it shows, and leaves a bit to your own imagination.

 

The movie isn’t fast-paced and spends some time before plunging the characters (and viewers) into the tunnels and the horrors that lurk there, and it also spends some time on “interviews” in order in order to maintain the documentary-style. If you have patience for the somewhat slow build-up and can appreciate that the creep-factor is more focused on what you can imagine instead of actually seeing, then you should be able to enjoy this low-budget Australian mockumentary.

 

The Tunnel

 

Director: Carlo Ledesma
Writers: Enzo Tedeschi, Julian Harvey
Country & year: Australia, 2011
Actors: Bel Deliá, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold, Goran D. Kleut, James Caitlin, Ben Maclaine, Peter McAllum, Rebecca Clay, Shannon Harvey, Arianna Gusi, Russell Jeffrey, Jessica Fallico, Ben James
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1735485/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Sick Blues (2015)

cat sick blues

It’s a quiet evening and two young ladies are chilling, smoking bong and watching cat videos on YouTube, like most of us do. Then they hear some noises on the roof that sounds like their cat. When one of them goes up to check, she gets surprised by a tall, skinny person wearing a cat mask. She’s too high to get scared, of course, and laughs it off as if it was a prank. He chops her head of with a shovel and throws it down the stairs, and strangles the other one.

 

We then learn that the person behind the mask is a young man named Ted, who’s turned into a homicidal maniac after losing his beloved cat.  When he’s not out killing, he spends his nights jacking off to a cam girl, who’s dressed as a cat. Of course. And he really worships his cat more than anything and wants it back. And to do so, he got the genius idea to kill nine people, collect their blood, to resurrect his cat. He later extends his cat persona by adding a big strap-on dick with spikes (supposed to be penile spines, I guess) because … well, why not.

 

We then get introduced to Claire, who owns one of the many viral cats on YouTube. She gets an unexpected visit from an obsessed “fan” that you wouldn’t want to get near to. Stupidly enough she invites him in, and he (take a wild guess) rapes her, after he accidentally breaks her cat’s neck and tosses it out the window. She attends to a pet grieving group where she meets Ted. They start dating, fucking, and they have a chemistry like two lobotomized potatoes with a relationship that goes in a bizarre direction which you’ll never see coming. And when Ted is not dating Claire, he’s out body counting.

 

As a cat-person myself, I was hoping to get an antagonist to feel or at least root for. But no, Ted proves to be just a deranged and complete soulless, cold-blooded serial killer from the very start, who clearly enjoys raping and killing innocent young ladies for the hell of it while feeding his morbid, obsessive fetish fantasies. And when even fellow cat persons gets body counted by him, that’s a big  no-no, from me at least. He also kills the cam cat lady we saw earlier for no reason. There’s a lot of sadistic cat killers out there, by the way. Why not hunt some of them, in Dexter-style, which no one would miss anyway? Before I take this shit too seriously I’ll just point out that the idea itself for Cat Sick Blues is pretty genius and unique, just too bad we don’t get any depth or backstory of the killer.

 

On the more positive note, the film is overall  pretty entertaining for what it is, a pure demented serial killer slasher. If you’re in for the gore and kills, you will not be disappointed. As a low-budget film, and the debut feature of Dave Jackson who made it by crowdfunding from Kickstarter, it looks pretty impressive. While there’s some clearly experimental stuff going on with slow motion and scenes that slip into some out-of-place artsy moments, the killing scenes are straight to the point, with some nasty visuals that will probably get your dick as hard as Ted’s strap-on. Also a great use of practical effects with heads smashed to pieces, and chopped off, and of course some throat slashing with some sharp cat claw gloves. Even Selena Kyle would be intimidated by this maniac. And as little as there is to wrap one’s mind around Ted’s deranged head, I have to give actor Matthew C. Vaughan some credit for his acting-style and use of energetic cat body language while he goes hunting for victims.

 

Cat Sick Blues is available on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing.

 

Cat Sick Blues Cat Sick Blues Cat Sick Blues

 

Director: Dave Jackson
Country & year: Australia, 2015
Actors: Matthew C. Vaughan, Meg Spencer, Jeni Bezuidenhout, Danae Swinburne, Rob Alec, Mahalia Brown, Shian Denovan, Smokey, Rachel Rai, Noah Moon, Matthew Revert, Andrew Gallacher, James Arnold-Garvey
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4185862/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relic (2020)

RelicKay needs to visit her old family home after receiving the message that her elderly mother Edna has gone missing. Bringing her daughter Sam with her, they both try to find clues which could help them figure out Edna’s whereabouts. Once inside the old country home, they soon find evidence all over the place regarding Edna’s increasing dementia. Post-it notes are found everywhere, with reminders of everyday things. After three days, Edna suddenly appears inside the house like nothing has ever happened, causing both tremendous relief for Kay and Sam, but also increased worry. The old lady’s behavior starts becoming more and more incomprehensible, and it feels like an ominous presence has taken control over her.

 

This year there have been so many horror movies postponed that was supposed to come to the theaters. So it goes without saying that, while starting the year off with great movies like The Lighthouse, Golden Glove and The Invisible Man, we Horror Ghouls haven’t had many chances to get our horror fix at the big screen for the remainder of the year. Thus, it was a nice surprise to see that our local cinema here in Norway had put up screenings for this Aussie horror flick.

 

Relic is Natalie Erika James’s debut feature film, and is a psychological horror movie with dementia/Alzheimer’s as the core of its terrifying happenings. The director used her own experiences as inspiration for the movie, as her grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s for years. Upon visiting her in a traditional Japanese house (which she perceived as rather creepy) and for the first time experiencing that her grandmother no longer recognized her, it filled her with feelings of grief, guilt and fear. Which is quite understandable. Alzheimer’s is a terrible condition both to be in, and witness loved ones succumbing to. It doesn’t just make you forget things, it sooner or later makes you forget how to remember…and there is no way back from that. It’s a disease that causes both pain, confusion and fear, to the extent where there are even cases among religious people where family members perceive it as so terribly frightening, that instead of calling the doctor they prepare for an exorcism. Which is just…incredibly sad, if you think about it. And Relic does an excellent job on portraying the feelings of hopelessness and creeping dread.

 

Already from the start of the movie, where you witness an eerie scene with an overflowing bathtub with water running down to the steps below, only to meet Edna naked with only a towel covering the front of her body while looking anxiously inside the dark living room, we know this movie is going to play heavily on atmosphere. And in that regard, I think the choice of surroundings are perfect, with Edna’s typical country home which has gotten a bit run down, and the glimpses we see of an old shack which used to be there in the past. It is a bit of a slow-burner and it doesn’t rush in telling you its tale, but it keeps your interest up by feeding you eerie details, chilling atmosphere and compelling visuals.

 

For those unfortunate enough to have personal experience with the dreadful disease, the movie’s metaphors will be quite clear, and some of them are pretty cleverly made. Having knowledge of and/or a certain investment in the disease will, in all likelihood, heighten your experience with this film. If you view the film by taking everything that happens literally, without understanding the rather discernible metaphors, you will miss out on the true horror laying beneath the layers.

 

Relic

 

Director: Natalie Erika James
Country & year: Australia | USA, 2020
Actors: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote, Steve Rodgers, Chris Bunton, Robin Northover, Catherine Glavicic, Christina O’Neill, John Browning, Jeremy Stanford
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt9072352/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next of Kin (1982)

Next of KinLinda inherits her mother’s Victorian mansion, located in the middle of the Australian dusty farmlands. It’s been remodeled as an retirement / nursing home, run by Connie and the doctor Barton. She’s quick to settle in, but it isn’t long before nightmares begin to haunt her, while some of the old people start to die in mysterious ways. She finds her mother’s diary that reveals one dark secret after another, and opens repressed memories. She begins to see a figure in her bedroom window, the water tap turns on by itself, the house cat begins to hunt shadows in the hallways, and candles seem to light up by themselves. One of the female nude statues in the garden has had one of her tits crushed. Much of what Linda is beginning to experience is the same thing her mother noted in her diary. Linda’s underlying paranoia skyrockets to eleven as she believes someone is tapping her phone late at night while she talks to her boyfriend, Barney, the only one she can barely trust.

 

This obscurity from Australia is a slow-burner where the film takes its time to find out if it’s a gothic ghost story, or a psychological thriller just to make you as confused as the protagonist. The film has been compared to The Shining (1980), but I would say it’s more in the same alley as Roman Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy” with some similarities from Dario Argento’s Suspiria, where the atmosphere is the center focus with some really disturbing moments. And if you get creeped out by old people, well, this film is clearly (not) for you.

 

This is also the first and last feature film of Tony Williams, which is pretty unfortunate, because with a far more ambitious script I believe he would have made some really great stuff. While the film got its cult following in USA, it flopped in Australia. And the film’s cinematographer, Gary Hansen, died in a helicopter accident shortly after its release. Life is unfair.

 

And here’s a warning: Don’t watch the trailer. It spoils everything. Yes, it’s one of those.

 

Next of Kin

 

Director: Tony Williams
Country & year: Australia, 1982
Actors: Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Vince Deltito, Tommy Dysart, Debra Lawrance
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0084408/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo (2008)Alice Palmer is a sixteen year old girl, that drowns while swimming in the local dam. Her body is eventually recovered, and her grieving family then starts experiencing strange events. Thinking it’s got something to do with their recently deceased daughter, they seek the help of a psychic who starts digging into Alice’s past. He reveals that Alice used to have secrets, and that she was living a double life that her family wasn’t aware of. The family then tries to figure out a connection between her death and the experiences they’re going through.

 

While most horror movies featuring a ghost depicts them as either vengeful or harmful, Lake Mungo takes quite a different approach. Written and directed by Joel Anderson, this film is made in a faux documentary style (“mockumentary”). It shows how a grieving family tries to figure out if they are haunted by their deceased daughter/sister. Is her appearance on her brother’s photos a call from beyond the grave? Are the things they’re experiencing caused by Alice’s ghost, or is everything just a manifestation of their grief?

 

The documentary-style fits the movie rather well, giving it a much more realistic and eerie tone. There’s a few twists and turns throughout the story, making it a mystery filled with secrets, surprises and even lies, all eventually leading the family to a place called Lake Mungo (which is an actual dry lake in Australia) where Alice apparently was camping before she died. The pacing is a bit slow while it’s building towards more and more reveals, and there are some twists and turns that might seem unnecessary and even totally irrelevant to Alice’s demise. The slow pacing of the movie is likely to be perceived as tedious by some, but this is a film that does not rely on the effectiveness of only certain parts, but rather as a whole-package thing.

 

Lake Mungo is not a movie whose main goal is to make you jump in your seat, but instead wants to crawl under your skin. There are a few scenes here that actually got to me (and that’s something that happens very rarely!), and for me it was the whole idea of loss and grief mixed with the supernatural goings-on that got to me. It was for the most part a very melancholic and sad movie (if Mr. Ghööl had a “Sad” badge, it would fit well here). It isn’t a movie with huge scares and shocking moments, but it’s unsettling and different. Lake Mungo is an exploration into grief and loss and the thought of maybe being haunted by a loved one, and your ability to connect with such experiences will probably have a lot to say on how you perceive this film.

 

Lake Mungo

 

Director: Joel Anderson
Country & year: Australia, 2008
Actors: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, Tania Lentini, Cameron Strachan, Judith Roberts, Robin Cuming, Marcus Costello, Chloe Armstrong, Carole Patullo, John Dunn, Laurie Dunn, Kirsty McDonald, James Lawson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0816556/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook«The Babadook» is Jennifer Kent’s debut movie based on her short film from 2005 titled «Monster». It’s the story about a widowed mother, Amelia, who is still struggling with trying to cope after her husband’s violent death. Plagued with nightmares and depression, she’s also having more than a handful with her son Samuel, a 7-year-old with a really needy personality with hyperactive periods and often throwing tantrums. To top it all, he’s got a fear of monsters that he believe are lurking around in the house. One night she decides to read a book for him in order to make him calm down and sleep, and she finds a book in her own home that she can’t remember having seen before. The book is titled «The Babadook»…and after reading from it, she also starts to sense what her son has been sensing: that something evil lurks around in their house…which later manifests itself as the evil spirit «The Babadook».

 

One could argue wether «The Babadook» is more a horror tale of a mother that is slowly going insane, than a monster movie. Seeing how the strugglig mother is trying to cope by balancing her work with her needy son and her trauma is somehow chilling by itself, because it’s so down-to-earth, even without any kind of monster mixed in. In many ways, the movie could be seen as some kind of metaphor for the pain and struggles of motherhood. There’s many ways to interpret this movie and what happens in it, especially the ending, which is also similar to the ending in the short film «Monster».

 

Oh, and the book featured in the film was actually printed as a real pop-up book where people could pre-order one in a crowd-funding campaign. I actually pre-ordered one of these, and below are some photos. This is the first print run, autographed by Jennifer Kent (and it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a second print run, so this is a rare gem):

 

The Babadook Book

 

The Babadook

 

Director: Jennifer kent
Country & year:  Asutralia | Canada, 2014
Actors: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear, Chloe Hurn, Jacquy Phillips
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt2321549/

 

Vanja Ghoul