You can sum up Danny and Michael Philippou’s Talk to Me in two words: “gripping horror.”
From its abrupt beginning to its conclusion, the film takes a hold of you. Okay, enough with the hand puns…
We meet Mia (Sophie Wilde), an Aussie teenager who recently lost her mother and now has a strained relationship with her dad and is staying with her best friend Jade, and Jade’s mother and younger brother, Riley. For a time, the banter, jokes and whining between the three juveniles feels genuine, nostalgic in a way, real, before things turn surreal.
The three teens (including Riley, to Jade’s dismay) join Jade’s boyfriend at a party where guests take turns tying each other to a chair to hold what looks like a graffitied ceramic hand. Those uninitiated think it’s a trick. First, you grasp the hand, then you say “Talk to me” and a ghost appears, then you can choose to let the ghost enter your body. Becoming possessed seems addicting, putting you “in the passenger seat” of your own body, and, of course, providing great Snapchat content. The possession scenes are chilling and give the audience a glimpse of what it’s like for the audience at the party and the soon-to-be possessed.
It’s easy to guess that holding the hand isn’t a good idea, and the film goes to a dark place.
Wilde’s Mia can be all at once relatable, solemn and psychotic. While scary for the audience, it must have been so fun to shoot the bloody and dramatic scenes for the young cast.
Loss, deceit, loyalty and love all come out in this edgy, blood-stained teen film. Images from Talk to Me will remain with you afterward, and the ending needs to be discussed.
If you miss Talk to Me at Sundance, it’s likely to creep up again soon. The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the Australian feature has been nabbed by indie studio A24.
Talk to Me screens on Jan. 25 at the Library Center Theatre in Park City, Jan. 27 at the Park Avenue Theatre in Park City and Jan. 28 at the Megaplex Theatres in SLC.
Visit Sundance’s website for more info.