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Talk to Me review
Image: A24

Film

Talk to Me Doesn’t Hit Like the Best Horror Does 

The Australian A24 film has a ton of buzz coming out of Sundance, but it’s not quite the best Australian indie horror film of the past 10 years

Talk to Me Review

Back in 2014, an Australian horror film came out of nowhere and made a huge cultural impact. That was Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, and now there’s another extremely creepy horror film from the same country. 

The film is Talk to Me, directed by brothers Danny and Michael Philippou in their feature directorial debut. It arrives with major Sundance buzz and the A24 imprimatur. While it’s certainly scary and creepy to the extreme, something about it feels a bit small. The ending, however, is fantastic. 

Talk to Me review
Image: A24

No one in the film ever uses the phrase “talk to the hand,” but there’s essentially what the plot of Talk to Me entails. It resembles the old Joel Schumacher movie Flatliners from the 1990s, except it’s about curious teenagers, instead of medical students. 

Talk to Me is about a group of teenagers, led by best friends Mia and Jade (Sophie Wilde and Alexandra Jensen). The teens and their friends have discovered a strange party trick: They have gotten ahold of a severed hand that seems encased in ceramic, one that supposedly belonged to a deceased medium. 

After reciting various spells and incantations that involve lighting a candle and saying “Talk to me,” they’re able to commune with the dead. There are rules, though- the person under the hand’s spell has to come out of it within 90 seconds, or else they’ll remain possessed, implicitly forever. 

At first, it seems like fun and even leads to some amusing social media videos (the filmmakers, alas, make YouTube videos under the handle RackaRacka.) 

Talk to Me review
Image: A24

But there are hints that the teens are becoming addicted to the leaps and — as teased in a horrific opening stinger scene — things are about to get extremely dark and violent. It’s especially bad when Riley (Joe Bird), Jade’s younger brother, takes the hand plunge. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a horror movie these days without some serious family trauma, and Mia is still haunted by the death two years earlier of her mother (Alexandria Steffensen) and feels the need to keep things distant with her dad. Meanwhile, Jade’s mom (Lord of the Rings veteran Miranda Otto) is like a second mother to Mia before things change very abruptly. 

Image: A24

Talk to Me is in no way lacking when it comes to creepiness. But there’s nothing especially impressive about the shot compositions, nor does Talk to Me do anything particularly interesting with the monster characters that appear repeatedly in the visions. 

Also, despite very chilling moments, the “rules” of what’s going on remain rather vague. We don’t learn much about where the hand came from, although I suspect that will be dealt with in future sequels or prequels. 

Ultimately, Talk to Me just doesn’t hit like the best horror does. 

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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