Film Review: TALK TO ME (Sundance Film Festival)

January 25, 2023

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at [email protected] He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

One of the finest fright-fare features in recent memory that involves teenagers making contact with spirits of the deceased is Talk to Me (Australia, 2023) from codirectors Danny Philippou and Michael Philppou. I finished this film about 24 hours ago and haven’t stopped thinking about it since — that’s how much impact it has had on me. 

Not content with mere ouija boards and seances, a group of teens has begun communicating with the dead using a ceramic-covered embalmed hand of a medium and sharing the wicked results on social media. Mia (Sophie Wilde) is working through the emotions of having lost her mother to an accidental overdose of pills two years earlier when she, her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade’s younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) and some of their friends, acquaintances, and frenemies attend and start participating in sessions in which teens are tied to chairs, inviting spirits to inhabit their bodies for 90 seconds or less — after which the spirits will do their best to stay in and kill the kids, leaving their own spirits to suffer for all eternity. 

The screenplay by Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman is razor sharp, establishing the rules of the game and sticking to them while ramping up the dangers and malevolence. The Philippous helm with aplomb, kicking things off with a shocking opener that holds meaning for what comes into play later on. The dread never lets up, and the cast members, led by a fine performance from Wilde with a superb supporting turn from Bird, impress greatly. The spirits look creepy as hell and are dark entities indeed, not above attempting bestiality while possessing their teen hosts, for example. 

Talk to Me is a true chiller. It uses teens doing stupid things involving the supernatural as its jumping-off point and delivers a smart take on the subgenre, with plenty of surprises, well-earned emotional investment, and no small amount of eldritch atmosphere. 

Talk to Me screens as part of Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in-person and online from January 19–29, 2023. For more information, visit https://www.sundance.org/.

 

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