Review: Talk to Me

What a frightful bore.

Teenagers have an embalmed hand that allows you to become possessed by the dead. But stay possessed too long and the dead can take over.

Cinematic debut for directors Danny and Michael Philippou, Talk to Me is a horror film set in Australia, starring Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, and Lord of the Rings star Miranda Otto. The film is designed to be viewed by teenagers who don’t watch movies, because anyone else will have seen this movie several times before and executed substantially better.

Like your classic Ouija Board movie, the entire premise hangs on a cursed macguffin, this time it is an embalmed hand. Several teenagers already have possession of this artefact, and have wild parties were they constantly grab the hand, say the words “Talk to Me” and “I let You in” to be possessed. Apparently, though this is extremely traumatising (duh…) the teens seem to get a contact high from the experience and constantly dare each other to do it more, while filming the possession.

Enter our protagonists, Mia (Wilde) who has recently lost her mother, Jade (Jensen) and her younger brother Riley (Joe Bird). Convinced the possessions are an act, but intrigued, they go to one of these parties and Mia experiences a vision. Horrified, Jade rejects it and defends her younger brother, while Mia goes out of her way to experience more visions.

Now, you might be thinking: Mia is doing this to see her mother. Wrong. The film makes it very clear Mia is doing this for social acceptance, and it doesn’t do enough to convince us that this is her rebounding off the loss of her mother. When Mia gets someone else badly hurt and alienates herself further from her friend group… she starts to experience regular hauntings…

You won’t watch this film, right? Shake on it?

The problem here, like so many horror films, is relatability. These characters are hopelessly awful, and the ones that aren’t awful human beings (or at least portrayed as such) are really dumb at the worst times. The worst levels of convenient writing in a long time.
Riley, the youngest, is seen early on as different from the jocks and lads that surround him. Not wanting to smoke, for example. But when the plot needs him to, sure, he’ll get himself possessed by a dead person.

The character of Mia is easily the most aggressively unlikeable character, and it is likely due to a candidness the film has in giving us much backstory or chemistry for her. Most of the film sees her as a sort of junkie medium, telling everyone that the solution is more of what caused the problem to begin with. Not to mention the absurdity of the frat boys who know the rules of this hand already, but fail immediately so the film can happen.

All of this is terrible, but the lick of quality that it has is the production value. A24 production means it is a good looking movie. If it had been paced and written better, it could have been full of atmosphere and jump scares. The film has your classic horror hallmarks: an easily reproduceable magic item? Check. Your expendable teenagers? Check. Magic words you have to say? Check.

But it is just how earnest it is. Like it knows it is the next big thing. A film that wants to be an earnest horror movie would not have the cops arrive at a grisly, bloody scene and not, A: shut the house down for an investigation, B: confiscate the teens’ phones, C: have lengthy interviews with all of them about what happened.

It is just a bad movie overall, if you have any experience at all with horror films.

Additional Marshmallows: The rating too high for the vitriol in the review? This is mostly for two reasons: the production values and the fact that teenagers will enjoy it.

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