TALK TO ME Review. More and More!
It starts like any other slasher, and nothing suggests that it will distinguish itself from the rest as the plot unfolds. A pair of teenage friends sneak out of their homes to attend a party where the main event involves playing with a mysterious embalmed hand. Whoever grabs the hand and says the phrases “talk to me” and “I allow you to enter” invites the spirit of a deceased person into themselves. This micro-possession is quite enjoyable, but the spirit cannot remain in the body for more than 90 seconds, as it will then stay forever. The girls had seen such activities in viral videos shared by a schoolmate, but they had not participated personally. One of the teenagers – a bit dull, a virgin, fitting the final girl archetype – is skeptical about the whole affair and doesn’t believe the recordings are genuine. The other friend – orphaned by her mother, restless – is like a live grenade: craving excitement and some form of escape from her depressive thoughts. We sense that she will be the catalyst for the expected tragedy. Similarly, we anticipate that the presence of the younger brother of one of the friends is a terrible idea at the party, and the decent boy Jade, who both girls are interested in, will eventually lead to conflict between them.
And so it happens – but we quickly realize that this won’t be just another clichéd horror with a group of foolish teenagers falling one by one. The creators skillfully juggle tropes and clichés, changing tones and styles. Roughly halfway through, the film consistently becomes darker and more dreamlike. While it operates with familiar motifs, it surprises, making it not easy to predict the direction of the whole story. All the minor inconsistencies (why doesn’t the police arrest the group of teenagers who provided evidence against themselves in the form of circulated online recordings?) also fit within the genre’s conventions.
In summary, this Australian horror film directed by YouTubers from the RackaRacka channel demonstrates that sometimes in cinema, it’s enough to ensure high quality in each component to achieve a very good result. Full of twists, free of unnecessary length, and dedicating the right amount of time to building relationships between characters, the screenplay provides a solid foundation for the narrative. The entire young cast performs wonderfully, with a big plus being the fresh faces and the naturalness of Australian actors, a rarity in horror where non-antagonistic characters are memorable. It’s also a delight to see Miranda Otto in a supporting role. The characterization and practical special effects largely contribute to a very realistic effect.
Above all, Talk to Me excels in terms of cinematography, editing, and audiovisual elements. It operates flawlessly in the realm where the true art of scaring the audience resides. Nearly devoid of typical jump scares, the film can build tension, atmosphere, intertwining horror with elements of humor and realism using various means. The visual sequences from the second half of the film, like the one in Daniel’s bedroom, will stay with me for a long time. Making the viewer feel trapped in someone else’s nightmare is a true art.
Talk to Me serves as rich material for various social interpretations. Satire on social media and internet challenge culture, playing with spirits as a metaphor for drug experiments – these are the most obvious interpretations. It’s also a psychological journey through the inner world of a traumatized teenager who gradually conquers her own demons. However, the creators understand the essence of good horror entertainment and metaphor doesn’t harm the story anywhere. It’s not a ponderous horror film overloaded with metaphors (ahem, Men). The ending, which – without giving spoilers – doesn’t provide clear answers or explanations of what exactly happened, serves as a playful poke at viewers expecting a thoughtful commentary on contemporary issues from horror. Sometimes we watch ghost stories precisely to forget about the present.
Is the film overly hyped, and are the praises exaggerated? Somewhat. The marketing buzz around Talk to Me has, as usual, elevated expectations beyond the actual value of the work. It certainly isn’t a “new voice in horror,” and in my opinion, not even the “best horror of 2023” as that title still belongs to Skinamarink. The Philippou brothers’ film remains a great debut and a testament to their excellent grasp of cinematic craft – a very enjoyable experience for all those who love to feel uneasy in the cinema.