Talk to Me is the new horror film Danny and Michael Philippou, and it stars Sophie Wilde, Alexander Jensen, and Joe Bird. The concept is that teens discover a calcified ceramic hand that they set on table. As a party trick, they light a candle, shake hands with the hand, and say, “Talk to me.” Suddenly the spirit of a dead person appears, and when they say, “I will let you in,” the dead person possesses the teen. Because this is a horror film, things quickly escalate and get out of hand – so to speak.
Rather obvious are the film’s metaphors, as it deals with teen drug use and self-harm. The hand becomes a stand-in for these behaviors, and Talk to Me’s moralizing proceeds exactly as you’d expect. Much more complex is the film’s depiction of the need for human connection. Wilde’s character, Mia, has lost her mother, and her loneliness compels her most destructive actions throughout the film. We need to feel close to another, the film seems to say, but this need can be manipulated and taken to tragic ends.
Talk to Me’s practical effects and lack of jump scares stand out in today’s disappointing horror selections like Insidious: The Red Door and The Boogeyman. The Philippou Brothers are not relying on cheap jumps or grisly images running at the camera. Rather, Talk to Me leverages our innate fear of death and the wonder at crossing over boundaries that we should not cross. The most horrific sequences are clearly shot and edited, and the film works largely because the horror feels real and compelling.
Talk to Me has second act lull where it spins its wheels for too long. The plot centers on characters who seek information they already have, and some sequences attempt to build suspense instead of getting on with the story. Also, there’s a section that depicts a reversal of some of previous dynamics when Mia uses the hand. That element was under-utilized, as I think further exploration of that reversal could have led to interesting narrative territory.
Overall, Talk to Me is a deep and compelling horror. It once again proves that competent filmmaking and a good idea can make for an excellent film.