Talk to Me (2022)

Rating: B

Dir: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Star: Sophie Wilde, Joe Bird, Alexandra Jensen, Otis Dhanji

Based off the trailer, I wasn’t expecting much more than a fairly generic teens-in-peril horror, with a sculpture of a hand standing in for the traditional ouija board. To some extent, I wasn’t wrong. However, the devil is in the details. Or devilS, perhaps, and the way this is put together, with commitment and some of the gnarliest violence in a while, help it rise considerably above. The opening sets the tone, with a young man at a party stabbing his brother, and then himself, in attention grabbing fashion. We then switch to Mia (Wilde), who will be our guide on this trip to the far side.

She’s part of a group of young people, who have come into possession of an embalmed hand, that can trigger those who touch into seeing visions of the dead. However, opening that gate can also allow those on the other end through for a taste of the life they left behind. If the rules to contain them are not strictly followed, then the peril increases exponentially. I’ll give you one guess as to whether or not the rules are strictly followed. For Mia wants to communicate with her late mother, and find out the truth about Mom’s desth. Doing so means overriding the concerns of her best friend, Jade (Jensen), and letting Jade’s little brother, Riley (Bird), act as the conduit.

Yeah, none of this seems like a good idea. Especially the bit about putting your trust in whatever the dead say. It’s not like the spirits would say and do anything, in order to escape the limbo-like realm in which they are trapped. Oh, wait, my mistake. Of course they would. Quite why none of the characters figure this out is unclear. I’m inclined to chalk it up to them being young, stupid and more amused by the whole thing than scared. Any time one of the group touches the hand and crosses over, there’s a whole forest of mobile phone lights, as everyone else records what happens for social media. It’s probably the most disturbingly (and depressingly) accurate aspect of the film.

If occasionally pushing the melodrama angle hard (Mia’s teary angst wears a bit thin), the possession stuff is very, very well handled. I’d venture to suggest it’s one of the best depictions in the past decade, a time when it seems there has been an entry in this subgenre coming out per month. Every aspect, from little things like the eyes of the subject, through to some brutal scenes of self-harm, and their aftermath, are portrayed to savage effect. The tone is admirably grim, and only gets more so as things progress towards the final battle in the struggle for Riley’s body and soul. You may need some suspension of disbelief, yet the film gets enough right to make that both comparatively easy and worth the effort. 

[Talk to Me is out in theatres from July 28]