Talk to Me starts off like a bat out of hell.
The exhilarating first 30 minutes had me convinced I was watching the next horror classic. The film’s intriguing premise, engaging characters, and shocking acts of violence had me wide-eyed and dialled in. And even though the final hour can’t maintain the same breakneck pace, Talk to Me is still a blast.
A great horror movie needs a killer premise. And with Talk to Me, directing duo Danny and Michael Philippou struck the jackpot.
A group of teenagers learn to speak to the dead, and their seances become a viral party craze. That setup deserves a double chef’s kiss. It’s strong enough to carry a Talk to Me series for several movies, and it’s a perfect excuse to unleash supernatural chaos on groups of young and immature kids.
Two years ago, Mia’s (Sophie Wilde) mother committed suicide. And now, Mia desperately craves some distraction on the anniversary of her death. So Mia gets together with her close friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) for a night of partying.
At the party, two cooler kids, Joss (Chris Alosio) and Hayley (Zoe Terakes) entice them to play the spooky party game talk to me. It requires someone to touch the severed hand of a dead psychic and invite a spirit into their body.
So, the obvious question here is, who in their right mind would want to do that? But these kids don’t take the game seriously. They believe the person being possessed is faking it for the camera. And real or fake, demonic possessions make great TikTok content.
It’s all fun and games until Jade’s little brother Riley (Joe Bird) takes his turn. The spirit possessing Riley smells weakness and unleashes hell on the boy, tearing open a doorway to the supernatural realm. With depraved entities spilling into the living world, Mia must find a way to close the rift before someone she loves gets hurt.
It’s clear the Philippou brothers are hellbent on scaring viewers senseless. If movies like The Exorcist and Ouija: Origin of Evil freak you out, Talk to Me will ruin you. It has great jump scares, a blood-chilling score, and gruesome visuals that will haunt you long after the movie ends. This terrifying horror flick isn’t for lightweights.
The first 30 minutes have the same tense, anxiety-inducing atmosphere as the Conjuring films. However, the vibe switches once Mia and her crew get seduced by the game. While still creepy, the evil possessions take on an almost slapstick tone, more in line with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series.
As bad as the movie wants to scare viewers, it also tries to weave in a meaningful story about loss, grief, and how people numb their pain. The seances serve as a stand-in for drug use and binge drinking. The teens literally get high off the supernatural energy coursing through their bodies.
But for Mia, the experience offers more than a distracting buzz. Playing talk to me gives her a feeling of hope and purpose lacking in her life. Talking to the dead may help her find closure with her dead mom. It’s a sensational stand-in for the all-too-real link between trauma and addiction.
Bill Hinzman and Daley Pearson’s script takes time to flesh out the characters, and it’s the reason the film works so well. There are a number of small tender moments (like a top of the lungs Sia sing-off) that humanize the characters and increase our empathy for them.
Being invested in the cast raises the emotional stakes when they’re in danger. These aren’t the most three-dimensional characters to inhabit a horror flick, but they’re more compelling than the stock characters in most monster movies and slasher flicks.
Talk to Me hits all the beats you want from a Midnight flick: horrific ghouls, unrelenting tension, and depraved acts of violence. And it’s all rendered with expert craft by the filmmakers. The movie works like gangbusters. And even though it loses some momentum in the second act, the film closes on a strong note.
Anybody who loves scary movies needs to put this title on their must-watch list right now. It’s only January, but Talk to Me is guaranteed to sit near the top of 2023’s best horror movie lists.