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TALK TO ME (2023) review

August 4, 2023


written by: Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman
produced by: Samantha Jennings and Kristina Ceyton
directed by: Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou
rated: R (for strong/bloody violent content, some sexual material and language throughout)
runtime: 95 min.
U.S. release date: July 28, 2023


What if a bunch of Gen Z kids messed around with an embalmed hand and inadvertently unleashed an unfathomable terror upon themselves? That’s the elevator pitch for “Talk to Me”, a supernatural horror flick directed by twin siblings, Danny and Michael Phillppou, popular YouTubers from Australia, who are making their directorial debut with a striking, trauma-inspired tale. It sounds absolutely silly, but the directors take the material seriously, while cleverly injected the right amount of understandable comedy to balance out the intensity and violence. The result is a tense and immersive genre feature with a surprisingly strong family drama at its core, that has a straightforward approach that’s quite admirable.

Set in modern-day, Australia, “Talk to Me” revolves around Mia (Sophie Wilde, making an impressive feature debut), a Black 17-year-old who’s dealing with the traumatic aftermath of her death of her mother, Rhea (Alexandria Steffesen), a year ago. She has unanswered questions that her distant father, Max (Marcus Johnson), can’t solve, leaving her searching for answers elsewhere. She has since remained close with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), a teen who lives with her little brother, Riley (Joe Bird), and their mother, Sue (Miranda Otto, so excellent here), finding acceptance as a surrogate family member with them. Jade is currently showing an interest in Daniel (Otis Dhanji), a classmate who Mia was previously interested in.



One night, the three of them (with Riley tagging along), visit a nearby party hosted by school bullies, Hayley (Zoe Terakas) and Joss (Chris Alosio). The apex of the party comes when the two hosts place an embalmed severed left hand on a fold-out table, beside a lit candle. The hand, which has writing all over it, supposedly once belonged to a medium and physical contact with the hand (in the form of a handshake) may result in contact with “the other side”, when the participant utters, “Talk to Me”. When the participant, who is strapped to a chair, follows that with an additional phrase, “I Let You In”, they then give permission to whatever being they see to take over their body. After 90 seconds, the candle is blown out, disconnecting the participant from the spirit.

Feeling adventurous, Mia takes a turn at the party’s main attraction and agrees to be strapped to a chair in front of the outreached hand. After uttering the titular phrase, she sees a ghastly image exclusive to her and then is subjected to visions and possessions after inviting the spirit in. While this occurs, many of the other teens (except for Jade) have their phones out, documenting this for later social media material. It takes some persuasion, but eventually Riley convinces the older teens to let him try it and the results are shocking for Mia since her mother takes over the boy and communicates with her. Then a sudden shift occurs while Riley is still under and a demonic force overtakes him, leaving him near death and hospitalized. Convinced that she can use the hand somehow to communicate with her mother again and seek the answers she desires, Mia becomes obsessed with the creepy hand, inevitably endangering herself and others.



“Talk to Me” opens with a legitimately disturbing scene that takes place at an crowded house party one night somewhere in Australia. This is where one brother, Cole (Ari McCarthy), arrives to track down his brother, Duckett (Sunny Johnson) and once he does find him, the party is interrupted by a shockingly unsettling scene involving these brothers. This scene will linger with viewers and make sense later on, especially as the Philippou brother conclude their macabre tale. Ultimately, it’s a great way to immerse the audience right away, showing there’s no time wasted in establishing the tone in “Talk to Me”.

From there, the Philippou brothers excel at establishing an authentic family dynamic between Jade, Riley, and their mother, as well as how Mia is accepted by the three of them. Conversations on display confirm how closely knit Jade’s family is and how Otto’s single mom, Sue, is clearly on to the attempts at deception by the teens and their friends, reminding them that she was a kid once, without so much as saying it out loud. As much as she is accepting of Mia, as Jade and Riley’s mother, Sue still shows concern and precaution when her children become more involved with Mia, considering her reputation for recklessness. Considering the conceit of the storyline, we know these kids are gonna get into it over their heads and there’s unfortunately nothing Sue can do about it.



It’s probably best that screenplay by Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman doesn’t delve into a backstory on this hand or provides us with additional supernatural lore. Less is more in this case and leaving it all a mystery adds to the suspense of it all. It also leaves provides more focus on the characters, offering more opportunities for the actors to really commit to and develop their roles and “Talk to Me” winds up being the rare case in which the actors portraying the main characters really shine. As Mia, Sophie Wilde shows an impressive emotional and physical range, resulting in a performance that accentuates the intense and suspenseful tone of the film.

While the detail regarding the supernatural aspect of the story gets a little hazy as the overall intensity increases, “Talk to Me” still delivers a highly engaging viewing experience. There are definitely a couple jaw-dropping moments included that no one will anticipate and the movie has some distinctive atmospheric heft to it, considering the limited budget. It’s a testament to the decisions made by the Philippou brothers, who are assisted by some striking cinematography from Aaron McLisky and sharp editing by Geoff Lamb.

The Philippou brothers do a great job at updating the seance hubgenre for horror flicks, making into something socially relevant and modern. They also have a knack for balancing humor with legitimately serious and realistic situations.





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