Talk To Me builds its scares around an emotive and emotional lead performance by Sophie Wilde and not the quiet-quiet-loud trend that has been ruining horror films for decades. Fans of Heredity, another A24 scare-fest, will recognize the difference. Think of Alex Wolff's performance that both breaks your heart and makes you want to look away. Wilde is equally key to the film, a debut feature from Australian directors Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou.
Mia (Wilde) isn't over her mother's death as the film begins. Her dad Max (Marcus Johnson) isn't trying very hard to connect to her and process things so Mia primarily lives with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), her little brother Riley (Joe Bird), and their mother Sue (Miranda Otto). After seeing a viral social media challenge involving an embalmed hand, Mia convinces Jade to go to a party where it is at. Riley tags along.
Classmates Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio) possess the hand and use it as a sort of demonic party favor, challenging new people to grab onto it and say "Talk to me." They are quick to tell willing victims to invite it in but warn that they can only stay connected to the hand for 90 seconds. What could go wrong when summoning the dead?
The premise isn't what is unique about Talk to Me, it's the directors' balance between coping with grief and the pain of loss mixed with a truly horrifying demonic presence. The film will make you squirm in your seat but it also has an emotional weight that makes you truly care about the fates of multiple characters. Horror films can have a problem of making you actually invested in characters but this film has it in spades which makes the visceral, bloody bursts of violence all the more impactful.
Talk to Me also boasts wonderful work by cinematographer Aaron McLisky. He knows just when to tilt the camera or pull a wild move out to maximize a dramatic, often creepy sequence. The camera work is distinct and gives the film a unique visual language. Combined with a smart script and great performance, Talk to Me is a big surprise that's part Mokey's Paw and part Flatliners. The ending delivers on the great premise and at 90 or so minutes, the film is very well-paced. Horror fans rejoice!