Stupid teenagers doing stupid things in horror movies is a grand stalwart of the genre. It’s tried and tested, and often offers nothing new or original. But ‘Talk to Me’, the brand-new chiller from twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, takes the trope and breathes fresh new life into it, creating one of the most effective and memorable scary movies in years. Horror is a polarizing genre at the best of times, but ‘Talk to Me’ defies the odds to deliver a creepy and unnerving film that grabs you from the start and never lets you go.
The premise is simple – a group of teenagers have gained possession of a mysterious severed hand. Rumoured to be the embalmed and coated appendage of a psychic who had their hand chopped off, the ‘game’ goes that if you hold it and allow it to absorb you, you can channel a looming dead spirit. So naturally this has become somewhat of an underground sensation for a group of teenagers who spend their nights in basements, partaking in underage drinking and filming these spirit possessions on their phones looking for a quick viral social media hit. But there are rules to this game… and when Mia (Sophie Wilde) allows her best friend’s younger brother to try it out without adhering to them, something goes horribly wrong.
To go into further detail on the plot would do the film a big disservice. Going in cold serves your enjoyment factor far more and guarantees a much more satisfying movie-going experience. Crucially, ‘Talk to Me’ doesn’t rely on jump scares either – something which has plagued modern horror for years now. That’s not to say a few aren’t thrown in for good measure, but the film is so confident in its sharp and pacey script that it allows its great young cast to successfully do all of the heavy lifting. There’s no reliance on overly loud soundbites to trigger suspense either – it’s all there in the situations these teenagers find themselves in, and in the escalating threat that follows them. That’s great genre writing.
The cast are superb, led by a stunning performance from Sophie Wilde as Mia. She expertly portrays the complexities of her character’s home life situation with her hang-ups as a teen and her hidden uncomfortableness that an old flame is now dating her best friend, Jade. Alexandra Jensen as Jade is inspired casting too. She and Wilde share a very believable and investing friendship that you actually care about and want to champion. Too many horrors neglect this side of the storytelling, but Jensen and Wilde are blessed with an emotionally relevant script, and in turn, the script is lucky to have such powerful leads in the roles of Mia and Jade.
The rest of the ensemble are all so believable in their roles too. Zoe Terakes is memorable as the local ringleader of the teenagers, and Joe Bird as Riley really sells the ‘younger sibling’ dynamic with Jensen’s Jade, and as a surrogate little brother to Wilde’s Mia. The kids aren’t the only ones having all the fun though – ‘Lord of the Rings’ legend Miranda Otto steals all of her scenes as Jade and Riley’s long-suffering, but cool, mum Sue. And it’s a testament to these performers that they get you completely invested in their relationships in such a short space of time. No screentime is wasted in ‘Talk to Me’.
‘Talk to Me’ is an inventive, original chiller that offers a fresh take on terror. The cast are sensational in this, and largely all being unknowns really helps sell the premise to gain maximum uneasiness and realism throughout. The scares are immediate and effecting, and the story keeps you hooked and invested in these characters. That makes such a change from the norm, where I’m usually rooting for the bad guy to do away with all of the annoying teens. ‘Talk to Me’ is a well made and bracingly efficient horror that offers its audience genuine uneasiness and edge-of-your-seat tension in abundance. A nerve-shredding and impressive 94min gem of a scary movie.
Cast: Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes, Marcus Johnson Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou Writer: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman Certificate: 15 Duration: 94 mins Released by: Altitude Release date: 28th July 2023
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