August 17, 2023
Will Harrington

Talk To Me: Two Severed Thumbs Up? (2 minute read)

By Will Harrington

The latest entry into A24’s growing catalogue of horror movies that are actually good is the creepy teen paranormal adventure Talk To Me. This Danny and Michael Philippou directorial debut made some noise at Sundance earlier this year and was hyped up endlessly on Twitter as “the scariest movie of the last X years” leading up to its release.

As a relatively avid horror fan, this got me excited. This is the studio that brought us Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar, and more recently, Ti West’s X and Pearl. These movies vary in scariness but are all good films with well-crafted stories. So it was safe to say Talk To Me would at least be good. Add in countless tweets about people having to leave the theatre from being so terrified I was sold.

The movie follows Mia (Sophie Wilde), who, after a family tragedy, moves in with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen). Mia grows close with Jade’s younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) and causes tension with their mother, Sue (Miranda Otto). One night, Mia, Jade, and Riley sneak out of the house to attend a party and play the classic teen party game: Hold The Satanist’s Embalmed Severed Hand And Speak To The Dead And Then Let Them Possess You For A Quick Minute Because It’s Funny.

What I love most about Talk To Me is that it respects your time. The prologue is swift but very impactful. The premise of the magical hand is introduced shortly after, and the movie does not question itself. It’s confident. It looks you in the eye and says, “Yeah, these stupid kids are going to play with this haunted relic, and its effects are real. Let’s get on with it”. It’s not vague. It doesn’t spend thirty minutes with the characters questioning whether it’s real, and no one video calls an expert from Eastern Europe to spew exposition on its background. And the whole thing is over in ninety minutes.

Talk To Me also has a soul (pun intended?) as it dives into themes of grief. Performances are good all around, with Wilde given the most to do. The sound design is another standout.

As expected when playing with demonic portals to the other side, things go south. The monsters start appearing where they shouldn’t. The kids and their loved ones get terrified, hurt, or worse. The gang has to come up with a plan to make it stop. While this may sound formulaic, Talk To Me is engaging and exciting throughout with the help of its well-written narrative.

Unfortunately, despite what Twitter says, scares are where the movie falls short. While it does have a few good jumps and a very tense sequence near the middle, where the theatregoers around me held their breath and half covered their eyes, Talk To Me has the same problem for me as 2022’s Barbarian: once you show the monster in full, in a well-lit scene, it’s hard for it ever to be scary again.

While scares subside in the latter half, the movie does land the plane with a clever and satisfying ending.