This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
"Talk to Me is a vicious, creepy and occasionally genuinely disturbing little gem that injects some life back into this sub-genre."
BY JACK RANSOM AUGUST 2, 2023
The latest original horror feature to arrive from acclaimed genre film studio A24. Talk to Me sees a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.
Truly making a mark in the 70’s and 80’s with The Exorcist and The Evil Dead, we have since been gifted the occasional possession-centric treat (The Conjuring, Hereditary, The Wailing). However there has been a whole bucket load of slop in between: The Rite, The Devil Inside, The Possession, The Last Exorcism and last year’s Prey for the Devil… you get the gist. However, Talk to Me is a vicious, creepy and occasionally genuinely disturbing little gem that injects some life back into this sub-genre.
There is no denying that Talk to Me is a victim of its own hype. I had substantial expectations for this, with many claiming it to be ‘groundbreaking’ and a ‘total reinvention of the genre’. Whilst it doesn’t quite reach those heights, it is still damn solid, with a killer central gimmick that absolutely nails the schlocky classic horror elements of its roots, as well as cleverly integrating itself into our current social media driven landscape. Whilst the performances and screenplay do bolster it, admittedly the family drama angle that defines Mia’s (Sophia Wilde) character is one that treads familiar ground and never really hooked me emotionally.
Visually the film is a slick and glossy affair. First time feature directors Danny & Michael Philippou integrate a whole host of creative camera trickery: from seamless scene transitions, head lurching tilts, and shots that either linger on the bursts of grotesque imagery or quickly chop around them, giving the viewer just enough of an idea of the horrors occurring. There are plenty of gnarly practical effects, slimy, skin-crawling make-up and prosthetic work that relish their in their disturbing nature.
The performances are strong all around and the youthful cast (coupled with the screenplay) actually make these high schoolers sound and feel like real high schoolers of their generation, which when it comes to a lot of supernatural horror is an achievement in itself. Our lead, Sophia Wilde’s gradual descent into paranoia, violence and head-whirling anxiety is well executed and she balances playfulness and a looming sadness well.
Talk to Me is a very solid horror flick with a premise that locks you in its clutches for 95 minutes. Sharp thrills and disgusting imagery are in full force and it is applaud worthy that there is no scene where our lead character goes to a library to try and research the hand. It does tread some familiar narrative ground and to me was never outright frightened, but this is still a definite recommendation.