Talk to Me hands the horror genre a creepy new entry
Coming up with a new and inventive horror story has got to be extremely difficult given the plethora of terrifying films that have filled the genre for the past 100 years. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, the filmmakers behind the new Australian film Talk to Mewent back to basics, relying on gruesome imagery and great editing to get the job done.
The story centers on Mia (Sophie Wilde), a teenager still mourning the recent (accidental?) death of her mother. A group of friends, including best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade’s brother Riley (Joe Bird), and former boyfriend Daniel (Otis Dhanji), invite her to a party where the main attraction is a ceramic hand, which willing participants grab and say “Talk to me” to be transported into an in-between world where they can interact with dead people.
The “high” they get from the experience makes it similar to doing drugs, and Mia and others return to it multiple times. The only problem is that staying in over a certain amount of time allows the participant to stay connected to that nether world, leading to real-life harm. Mia’s fascination with the process and her grief combine into a situation that proves difficult to escape.
Directed by brothers Danny and Michael Phillippou, and written by Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson, and Danny Phillippou, the film hits some high highs but can’t always keep the momentum it’s built up. A brutal opening sequence sets the tone right away, and the various scenes of people entering the dead world are full of fantastically off-putting imagery that are enough to satisfy any big horror fan.
As the film goes along, though, it’s not exactly clear what kind of story the filmmakers are trying to tell. There is no overarching villain – it’s just the hand itself – and so the film has to rely on the ups-and-downs of the relationships between Mia and her friends, as well as her dad, Max (Marcus Johnson), and Jade’s mom, Sue (Miranda Otto). Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t, which makes for a disjointed viewing experience.
Still, there is a constant undercurrent of dread in the film that keeps things relatively suspenseful while waiting for the next big moment. The performances of the actors, especially Wilde and Bird, really sell the intensity of what they’re facing. Since this is an Australian production, none of the teenage actors will likely be familiar to American audiences, but they announce themselves in a big way here.
Talk to Me is a solid new entry into the horror genre, one that uses familiar tricks to great effect even if the spell doesn’t last all the way through. With A24 giving these Aussie filmmakers and actors a platform in the U.S., don’t be surprised to see more of them in the future.
Talk to Me opens in theaters on July 28.