Saturday, March 2, 2024

“Talk to Me”: A Terrifying Gem That Defies Horror Tropes

Sophie Wilde as Mia
photos courtsey of A24

Where to Watch: In theaters

Release Date: July 21st

Runtime: 1h 54m

Rated: R

Starring Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes, and Chris Alosio

Directed by Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou

Synopsis:  A close-knit group of friends stumbles upon an ancient secret – the ability to summon spirits through an embalmed hand. Initially, the thrill of connecting with the supernatural world captivates them, but as they delve deeper into their newfound power, a dark obsession takes hold. When one of them dares to push the boundaries, they unwittingly unleash malevolent and terrifying forces beyond their control, setting off a heart-pounding chain of events that will test their friendships and their very sanity.

Why Should You Watch? 

I kept hearing about this A24 horror film at the South by Southwest Film Festival that apparently was so scary that people were having nightmares. I found out it was Talk to Me and I can tell you this movie is indeed scary as hell. It delivers an unforgettable horror experience right from its shocking opening sequence, setting the tone for an intense and gripping story. Lead actress Sophie Wilde puts on a standout performance (particularly during her possessed moments) as she captivates and chills audiences to the bone. With a skillful sound design that adds to the scares, eerie costume designs, and a haunting ceramic hand at the center of it all, this film stands out as one of the best in the genre without relying heavily on gore or clichés. Directed and written by the talented duo Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, Talk to Me is a must-watch that will keep you on the edge of your seat, both terrified and enthralled.

From the first five minutes, Talk to Me grabs your attention with a shocking and horrifying moment that leaves you bracing for what’s to come. The opening sets the stage for a tense and chilling narrative, establishing the film’s unique approach to horror.  It had me thinking to myself, “alright, this is what we are doing, and I am up for the challenge”. 

Sophie Wilde’s portrayal of the lead character is nothing short of exceptional. From a dysfunctional teenager yearning for her deceased mother’s presence to becoming enslaved by the hand’s false promises, Wilde’s remarkable performance showcases an impressive range of emotions and transformations. Her portrayal of the possessed state is truly terrifying and haunting, leaving audiences genuinely unsettled. As she explores deeper into her character’s pain and loss, viewers can’t help but empathize with her turmoil, making her a captivating and sympathetic figure. I found myself cheering for her but at the same calling her stupid for making some not-so-smart emotional decisions.

The other actors in this film also deserve praise for their convincing portrayals of possessed beings. The moment they clasp the eerie ceramic hand, their transformations are spine-chilling, leaving audiences on edge throughout the film. It is this ceramic hand that serves as a conduit between the living and the dead, inviting possession and eerie encounters… proof positive that teenagers do stupid things when they are bored.

The sound design of Talk to Me plays a crucial role in the overall horror experience. The subtle, spine-tingling sounds contribute to the scares, making even the simplest scenes cringe-worthy. The masterful use of sound elevates the tension, leaving viewers in constant suspense and on the edge of their seats… or maybe even under their seats. I actually witnessed a viewer next to me slide way down in her seat in genuine fear. 

Sophie Wilde as Mia
photos courtsey of A24

Jump-scares are plentiful in Talk to Me, skillfully executed to keep viewers on their toes. The eerie costumes of the possessed characters make the encounters with the dead even more terrifying, ensuring that every scene is filled with dread. Just like the characters in the film, some of the appearances of the dead on screen will make you want to turn away or even have you screaming “yuck!”, I know I did. 

The film’s underlying themes and symbolism add depth to the horror. The creepy ceramic hand can be interpreted as a metaphor for addiction or other vices that lure individuals into dangerous territory. This element introduces a thought-provoking layer to the film, making it more than just a typical horror flick. There are other themes heavily depicted in the film: closure and acceptance. These areas are both important as our characters are confronted with them.

The directing and writing by Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou are commendable, as they masterfully crafted a horror film that stands out from the rest. By steering away from the usual gore and horror tropes, they create a suspenseful and engaging experience that relies on strong storytelling, intriguing visuals, and exceptional acting. My favorite is a side shot, where the characters tilt back into their seats once they are possessed, then sit back up with fully black pupils. The camera follows the transition of the characters. Another cool trick that the director uses is the space between Mia and her father to show how distant they are. Also, the father’s face is hidden a lot, showing how disconnected Mia is from her father.

Joe Bird as Riley
photos courtsey of A24

In conclusion

Talk to Me is an outstanding horror film that delivers an intelligent and chilling narrative. Sophie Wilde’s incredible performance, supported by a talented cast, brings possessed characters to life in a way that will leave you unnerved. The combination of sound design, eerie visuals, and symbolic elements makes Talk to Me a standout in the horror genre. Kudos to the dynamic duo of Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou for their exceptional direction and writing that has crafted an unforgettable horror gem. Whether you’re a horror enthusiast or simply seeking a gripping film experience, Talk to Me is a must-watch that will keep you riveted and haunted long after the credits roll.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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