An Aussie house party is in full swing. A young man finds his little brother amongst the chaos. The teen is distant, injured and not making sense. Before anyone knows what is happening, tragedy strikes the party. Someone is injured, someone is dead and nobody knows why.
Months later, the teenager Mia (Sophie Wilde) struggles to deal with the suicide of her mother. Her connection with her father in tatters, she escapes by spending as much time as possible with her BFF Jade (Alexandra Jensen). Jade‘s mother Sue (Miranda Otto) and younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) accept her as family during this difficult time. But teenagers will teenage, and one night, the trio sneak out to a party held by the rough and street-smart Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio). The two of whom have become something of a social media sensation with their recent “possession” videos.
As the party builds, the time has come for the show piece to be revealed – a bizarre, severed hand encased in plaster and emblazoned with inscriptions. All one must do is shake hands with the phantom limb and proclaim, “Talk to me!” to become one with the other side, a sensation which is as intoxicating to experience as it is to witness. As long as you abide by the 90 second limit, it’s all in good fun and nobody gets hurt. But like all party drugs someone inevitably overdoes it. And overdoses have a habit of turning a good time bad REALLY fucking fast.
This film comes from Aussie YouTube superstars Danny and Michael Phillipou along with frequent collaborator Bill Hinzman. Since 2013, they’ve specialised in various styles from pranks to horror and surreal comedy. Approaching its 10th anniversary this November, their YouTube channel, ‘RackaRacka’, has racka-racked up over 1.1 billion views! Branching out the brothers have put together this creative and entertaining thriller as their feature film debut.
Talk to Me is a much more amusing experience than these types of films tend to be. The A24 logo at the start of this movie hints at something beyond the norm, however and the Phillipou’s channel in their knack for comedy. Things still grow quite intensely violent and there are jump scares to maintain the film’s tone. But refreshingly, the humour isn’t derived from lines which kill the mood, rather the characters’ relatable reactions to what is going on.
In this way, the characters of Talk to Me are decidedly realistic in both dialogue and personality. A cast largely made up of young newcomers portray very natural teens in a scenario beyond our understanding. But this also goes for the film’s sole big name, Miranda Otto. As Aussies, I think we all know a mother like Sue and she is played much more genuine than your average movie mom.
Sophie Wilde makes her big screen debut and fits the role of leading lady like a glove. Eliciting so much empathy from the audience, it’s impossible not to feel for her character’s impossible burden by the end. I think special note should also be given to Terakes and Alosio who both shine in their relatively small roles.
For all this realism, Talk To Me’s script does admittedly leapfrog over the shocking introduction of the supernatural. Once we see the possession party trick, it’s accepted as fact by the characters with little hint of scepticism or even much surprise. Although, I actually really liked this. Much like the film’s approach to humour, it is refreshing to see a ghost film where the first act isn’t spent on the same old disbeliever turning into a proselyte pipeline which allows the film to be more than just another run of the mill “character tries to escape a curse” story.
The party trick of possession itself being a fairly well-done allegory for the subject of risky party drugs. Something we all know we shouldn’t do but do anyway. Either because we’re in a bad headspace, peer pressure, or it’s what the cool kids are doing. Things can go from a good time to bad quickly and when they do, it drags everyone involved down with it.
Reportedly the Phillipou brothers turned down offers to direct a film in the DCEU in favour of making Talk to Me. I couldn’t be happier that they did as they have created potentially the next major franchise in doing so. I’m sure it is only a matter of time before we see a ‘Talk 2 Me’ on the horizon. But for now, this remains a fun thriller to watch with friends with as many well-earned laughs as there are scares.