Synopsis: When 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.
Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Stars: Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Miranda Otto
What is going on with filmmakers from Australia and New Zealand? They are excelling in the horror/terror genre. The absolutely brilliant Hounds of Love comes to mind. Ben Young’s debut film was so creepy yet intelligent. Then came Killing Ground and Coming Home in the Dark, which solidified the intensity of the genre from the down under.
The latest entry into the canon is Talk to Me, directed by twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, who gained fame from their YouTube channel RackaRacka where they filmed stunts, pranks, skits, etc.
In the film, we meet Mia (Sophie Wilde), who lives with her father and continues to deal with her mother’s passing. Her friend Jade’s (Alexandra Jensen) family has somewhat adopted her. Jade’s brother Riley (Joe Bird) and Mother Sue, Miranda Otto) adore Mia.
Mia has a distant relationship with her father. He tries to communicate with her and is given a barrage of one-word answers. Teenagers!
Mia also has trouble fitting in with the kids at her high school. Jade sometimes has to play the middle person as she wants to spend time with Mia, but many other students don’t want Mia along for the ride.
One such night Mia is a reluctant invitee to a party where some kids want to play with an embalmed hand. One person holds the hand and says, “Talk to me,” and they manage to conjure up a spirit.
This new ‘high’ for the kids comes without the need for drugs. As they play this ‘game’ more often, Mia sees it as a way to connect with her deceased mother.
The Philippou brothers have tapped into a few different themes here. Sophie Wilde does a great job of portraying someone dealing with the loss of a parent and its profound effects while looking for acceptance from her ‘adoptive’ family and schoolmates.
Let’s not forget that this is a horror film, and there is a mix of jump scares and violence on display. What makes the filmmakers so talented is that they don’t use violence for the sake of it; they use it strategically.
This genre is difficult to break into, and they have smashed their way into it.
Someone asked me how it compares to Smile. The marketing behind Smile was brilliant. Come on, people sitting behind home plate at baseball games with creepy smiles on their faces—pure genius!
Like most films, Talk to Me doesn’t have that level of marketing behind it, but the story here is very interesting. You feel for Mia because Wilde’s performance is highly authentic.
The film’s casting is also very smart; no one star overshadows the production. This allows the audience to focus on the story. That said, don’t be surprised if this film makes launches the careers of some of the cast.
In addition to Wilde, Alexandra Jensen is impressive as her friend Jade. Her facial expressions evoke so much emotion. In addition, she successfully bounces from a concerned friend to a frustrated one.
Overall, this is a solid film that audiences should enjoy. The pacing is great at just over 90 minutes; Danny and Michael Philippou take the appropriate amount of time to tell this story. They also happen to be from a part of the world where filmmakers really know how to scare audiences, and they do it better than most.