There have been a lot of conversations about the lack of creativity in Hollywood recently.  This has always been a general complaint but with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike and studio execs responding by threatening to use AI to replace them, it has become a more serious discussion.  In addition, the summer of 2023 has seen multiple previously successful franchise films bomb spectacularly.  Audiences are craving fresh new talent with unique voices.  “Talk to Me” couldn’t have picked a better climate to come out.

The movie is helmed by Australian brothers Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, best known for their RackaRacka youtube channel and this glorious 2015 Epic Nerf Battle.  It’s a fun, silly short, but like the rest of their shorts, it clearly showcases their love for film and understanding of cinematic language.  Their transition to the big screen is reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s journey from the “Key and Peele” show to the new horror auteur.

“Talk to Me” starts strong with a long take of a man frantically looking for his brother at a hectic house party.  The outcome is jarring and unexpected and seems unrelated to the story until we’re about halfway through the brisk 90-minute film.  Next, we’re introduced to close friends Mia (Sophie Wilde) and Jade (Alexandra Jensen) at the funeral of Mia’s mother Rhea (Alexandria Steffensen).  It’s said that Rhea’s death was accidental, but Mia struggles with the uncomfortable possibility that she took her own life and the crushing emotional implications of that.    Mia has been struggling to feel better, and make more friends since the loss of her mother, but hasn’t been very successful.  In an attempt to be more social, she convinces Jade and her little brother, Riley (Joe Bird), to attend a small party where two older teens produce a ceramic-encased, embalmed arm that reported once belonged to a medium/Satanist.  They encourage (i.e. peer pressure) other teens to try it out.  The subject is strapped to a chair, for their own safety, grips the hand, and says “Talk to Me” at which point a ghost (demon?) appears before them.  They then ask the spirit to “Come Inside.”  The possession, which they never let last longer than 90 seconds is described as incredibly euphoric.  It’s a perfect metaphor for drugs.  The fear, the peer pressure, the willingness to do something rather horrifying just to feel better for a little while afterward; it fits like a glove.  Of course, if you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned, especially in a movie like this.

The way the movie progresses is where it truly shines.  It’s not your typical jump-scare movie.  This one will chill you to your core, while also making your heart ache for Mia and everything she’s been through and continues to go through.  All of the young actors are great in this movie, but Sophie Wilde truly shines.  She shows incredible range and draws us into the personal hell she’s living with.  Paired with a great script that doesn’t have any of the characters doing dumb things just to keep the scares coming, “Talk to Me” is by far the best horror movie of 2023 to date and one of the movies that deserves to be seen in theaters.

Talk to Me