Talk to Me
talk to me | danny philippou | michael philippou | bill hinzman | sophie wilde | joe bird | alexandra jense | ghost | ghosts | possession | possessed | ritual | thriller | a24 | australia | united kingdom | miranda otto | zoe terakes | chris alosio | otis dhanji
Film: Talk to Me
Directors: Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou
Writers: Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman
Starring: Sophie Wilde, Joe Bird and Alexandra Jensen
This is a movie that I started to hear buzz about right as it was getting released wide. My wife saw a trailer and was freaked out by it. That made me excited to see this. I did hear in a group chat that I’m in that there were story elements they were tired of seeing used. For the rest of what I’ve been hearing, most people are high on this film. I’ve heard some go as far to say this could be a year-end contender.
Synopsis: when a group of 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.
Now I’ll admit something upon writing this, I saw this in the theater on Saturday and sat down to review it on Monday morning. We start where Cole (Ari McCarthy) is looking for his brother, Duckett (Sunny Johnson) at a party. It seems the latter had a breakdown and he’s been dealing with heavy stuff. This ends in tragedy, making it that much more heartbreaking.
It is from here that we meet our lead, Mia (Sophie Wilde). She is dealing with heavy things. Her mother committed suicide, but she doesn’t believe it. She is convinced it was an accident and they didn’t get to her in time. Her father and her estranged due to it. He won’t tell the truth, according to her. Mia has latched on to her best friend, Jade (Alexandra Jensen), and her family. She sees Riley (Joe Bird) as a brother and Sue (Miranda Otto) as another mother. Riley calls Mia to pick him up as Jade won’t answer.
These three kids sneak off to a party and Sue knows about it. She just wants them to be safe. It is at this party we meet Jade’s boyfriend of Daniel (Otis Dhanji). We learn that he’s straight edge and briefly was Mia’s boyfriend previously. These kids play a game at these parties. Jade doesn’t believe it and Mia is intrigued. Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio) have the embalmed hand from the synopsis.
They claim it is from a medium and set in plaster. The game is that they strap you to a chair. They light a candle to open the door and then you say, ‘Talk to Me’. This makes a ghost appear to you when hold the hand. If you then allow it inside, this spirit possesses you and you function as well as look strange. You’re only supposed to let the entity stay inside you for 90 seconds. Anything longer, it might like it.
Mia is the first one to do this at the party. Those in attendance feel awkward around her after what she’s gone through and how it affected her. She allows a spirit inside of her but something doesn’t go right. It stays just longer than the time frame when Joss can’t get the hand from her. She then becomes addicted to doing this. Jade even allows her, Daniel, Riley, his friend to host Hayley and Joss in doing this. It results in disaster though when Riley is hospitalized and in a coma. No matter what they do to fix it, it just seems to complicate the situation even farther.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I was shocked to see that this is an A24 film. Upon completion, I’m not anymore. This does feel like they are trying to go a bit more mainstream with a darker take on something that Blumhouse would come out with. This exceeds most everything I’ve seen though from the latter company though.
Now that I’ve set that up, I want to first delve into the lead of Mia. I know there are people out there that are over the trauma narrative. I can see their gripe with our lead. Her mother killed herself and it is rocked her world to the core. She is telling herself and those around her that was an accident. I’ll be honest though, it made me wonder as the movie goes on if that could be the case. Looking at the evidence as an outsider, she is rationalizing and it doesn’t fit. What I will say here as well is that there’s a way to look at this that nothing supernatural is happening. Mia is warped and the things she is doing to help Riley are making it worse. She’s finally snapped from stress. That would also mean that Riley had a mental break as well. We don’t see enough of his character for that to fit. I don’t fall for this camp, but I can see the logical arguments that could be made for this take on the story. Before moving away, I do think that Wilde does a good job in this role and deals with the dark things for her character. It felt believable to me. I also feel horrible for someone her age to have to come to terms with these things.
Where I’ll then explore the game that they play. This is something that I’ll be honest about, I would never join. They look like they’re having a great time, but to me it is terrifying. I’d watch people play, but that would be the extent. What works though is that we set up the rules. The candle needs to be blown out or the door is left open. If the spirit is inside your body too long, then it can latch on. What is interesting and going back to my earlier point a bit, Mia has one stay in just too long. We don’t know how much longer, but it went over 90 seconds. That is the start of everything that bad happens going forward. We do know from the cold open that playing with this game has worn on that person until they snapped. Riley also was affected during the party at his house. I like that these teens have messed with forces they shouldn’t and the consequences are more than just a game. That is a good message that isn’t new, but effective.
I’m not sure there is more that I want to go into here so over to the acting. I’ve already said that Wilde was good. I do like Bird, Jensen and Dhanji are good as her friends. I like as the tension mounts her relationships are strained with them. Terakes and Alosio are good as the catalysts to everything that happens. Marcus Johnson is Max who is Mia’s dad. I thought he was good to help build that emotional feel along with Rhea (Alexandria Steffensen) as the mother. I should also include Otto, who I’ve not seen a bad performance from. Mia is our lead so everyone is pushing her to the climax and resolution. I thought they were good to do just that.
All that is left then would be filmmaking. The first thing I want to go into with this is cinematography. They do interesting things with camera movement. When people become possessed, it jerks with them as the spirit enters. That was good. There are interesting shots using mirrors and windows, which was also solid. This uses the whole frame and it is effective. I’d also say that there’s probably a combination of practical and CGI effects. Those worked. The look of the ghosts is terrifying at times which I liked. Editing helps here to show that reality might not be what we think as Mia descends into madness. Other than that, I like the use of soundtrack and design here as it was also effective building tension.
In conclusion, I like what this movie is doing. It isn’t reinventing the subgenre. Incorporating the teens of today with making a game of something they don’t fully understand works for me. The supernatural elements are good or the fact that this can be looked at where they aren’t happening. The acting is good. Wilde’s performance works and I like that the rest of the cast pushes her character of Mia to where things end. I also think that this is well-made. The look of the ghosts and the cinematography being the bright spots there. This is a contender for my end of year list. One that I’m excited to revisit as well.
My Rating: 8 out of 10