From Ouija boards to cursed dolls, teenagers in horror movie love to tango with the devil and tamper with haunted artifacts that scream, “Do not touch!” The new Australian film “Talk to Me” uses this overused trope to create a grotesque and immersive atmosphere that renews the supernatural genre.
“Talk to Me” follows teen Mia (Sophie Wilde) as she navigates adolescent loneliness after the passing of her mother. Struggling with her mental health and declining relationship with her father, she convinces a group of her friends to take part in an internet trend where a mummified hand allows the user to become possessed by a random spirit. When the teens get hooked on the thrill, they become entangled in the spirits’ twisted game with life-threatening consequences.
While the plot may seem unoriginal, what makes the film stand out are its touching relationships. Mia’s familial relationship with her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade’s younger brother, Riley (Joe Bird) makes the beginning of the film reminiscent of a wholesome coming of age film and allows the audience to fall in love with the main character. She is bubbly and filled with warmth, which makes her typical, mindless horror movie character actions seem forgivable. None of the characters in “Talk to Me” are cliches or archetypes — they are written with a smooth blend of likable qualities along with the stupidity and selfishness of adolescence.
The film also portrays spirits in a delightfully terrifying new light, as any semblance of humanity has been left behind. Jarring to look at, the spirits’ time away from humanity has stripped them down to animalistic needs. When the user of the hand says, “I let you in,” the spirits waste no time before violently entering their bodies and preying on their inner thoughts and fears. They are aching to return to the living world, and the film showcases the spirits’ manipulative methods and how the desire to return can result in a loss of humanity. Mia’s character is rooted in her mommy issues, and the desire to be with her mom again compels her to do worse things than evil spirits.
The unpredictability of the spirits’ actions and the teens’ addiction makes it difficult for viewers to tear their eyes away. From shouting foul obscenities to making the user French kiss a bulldog, the shock factor is always high, making the film genuinely horrifying. Most modern horror films have completely disregarded the fear factor, instead focusing on building a sense of terror and dread within the audience. “Talk to Me” does a perfect job of combining a terrifying atmosphere with grotesque practical effects.
The debut film is directed by brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, who are known for their Youtube channel Rackaracka. Their background in media allowed them to create a compelling Gen Z horror film that encapsulates fear in the 21st century. As the fifth-highest grossing A24 movie, a sequel — “Talk 2 Me” — has already been announced without a release date.