Metro Weekly

‘Talk To Me’ Review: Getting Handsy

A nifty debut horror-thriller from Danny and Michael Philippou, "Talk to Me" takes a haunting detour into the spirit realm.

Talk To Me -- Photo: Matthew Thorne
Talk To Me — Photo: Matthew Thorne

Part of the suspense, thrills, and fun of horror movies has always been the running. Screaming victims who flee blindly towards, instead of away from danger, or who somehow can’t scamper two feet without tripping on their fear, used to be the joke. But these days, the kids don’t always run from the slasher, demon, or sharktopi who stalk them in horror flicks.

They whip out their phones to start filming, like the titillated teens in Talk to Me (★★★☆☆) — not unlike co-directors Danny and Michael Philippou, twins from Adelaide, Australia, whose YouTube channel, RackaRacka, has cracked over a billion views with its brand of special effects-assisted comedy videos.

Working from a script co-written by Danny Philippou and RackaRacka collaborator Bill Hinzman, the filmmakers invest their feature debut with ample compassion for the movie’s circle of camera-clutching Australian high schoolers, who barely distinguish between danger and content.

Led by troubled Mia (played with intensity by Sophie Wilde, also making her feature debut), these friends charge full-speed into the maws of death, but none are treated by the film as expendable, nor as merely grist for grisly humor.

In fact, Talk to Me doesn’t rack up a high-volume body count as it weaves grave drama into its taut supernatural tale following Mia, her bestie Jade (Alexandra Jensen), and their friends down a dark rabbit hole of convening with the dead.

Mia, grief-stricken over the death of her mother, and probably now a bit too attached to Jade’s family, and definitely feeling some kind of way about Jade dating her ex, Daniel (Otis Dhanji), is already teetering on the edge. So when the group, including Jade’s younger teen brother Riley (Joe Bird), gets introduced to a party game that involves contacting the dead — by grasping a cursed, embalmed hand, and inviting the spirits to “Talk to me” — Mia plunges in eagerly, desperately hoping to make contact.

Talk To Me -- Photo: Courtesy of A24
Talk To Me — Photo: Courtesy of A24

Of course, Mia and friends make contact in ways they hadn’t imagined, summoning spirits who enter gladly but then won’t leave. Dancing credibly between ghost story creepiness and demon possession horror, the film escalates the game along with the deadly stakes. While the humor is mostly dealt by Mirando Otto portraying Jade’s shit-talking, no-nonsense mom, the teens seriously pursue their thrilling nightmare, always with one or many cameraphones rolling.

In one frenzied montage, the friends take turns shaking the cursed hand, getting high, Flatliners-style, on the rush of staring death in the face.

They’re some shockingly awful, cadaverous faces, to be sure, thanks to effective makeup and lighting. The sudden sightings of living corpses are consistently chilling, along with the very thought of how death has curdled these spirits. Individually, they’re variously twisted and violent, kinky and vindictive, taking pleasure from causing pain.

One grotesque vision of a victim in the spirit world being held down and consumed by the dead is plenty, especially as a contrast to the danger the game poses in these kids’ real lives.

First and foremost, Mia risks losing her sanity. Wilde’s arresting performance shows Mia’s edges fraying by the minute — which doesn’t account for the character’s laundry list of ill-advised decisions. We’ll put that on the writers, who also construct an intriguing allegory about how the lost and loveless might try to find home in a more stable family, yet still end up lost and loveless.

Mia is accused at one point of forcing her way into Jade’s loving family — like a guest who’s worn out their welcome, a refugee too far across the border, or a spirit who won’t leave.

Talk to Me is playing in theaters nationwide. Visit

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