It would be safe to say that throughout the 21st century, no genre of movie has been beaten so deeply into a realm of predictability and eye-rolling tropes than the horror genre. A genre that has offered hundreds of hours of nearly identical content and remakes that still somehow sneak their way into a viewer’s attention at a late enough hour. Putting aside the gloomy charm of old horror films and the tiresome remakes that are force-fed to the masses every year, in 2023 it is still genuinely exciting to receive a high-quality, truly terrifying movie delivered straight to theaters.
“Talk to Me,” is the newest film released from A24 and continues the studio’s triumphant run of stomach-churning, eye-covering psychological and paranormal horror movies that are filled with morbid inspiration.
Right from the jump, “Talk to Me,” had me reminiscing on the stark, hopeless feeling of dread that Ari Aster’s cult classic, “Hereditary,” exhibited in 2018. The basic plot of this film is quite straightforward, yet wholly original in execution. A group of teenagers discovers a paranormal statue of a hand that allows them to momentarily become possessed by a spirit.
Rather than taking the predictable route of a priestly exorcism culminating in the wake of a particular ghastly spirit’s arrival into the teenager’s group, “Talk to Me” directors Danny and Michael Phillippou concoct a terrifying story involving the teenagers becoming addicted to the thrills that the ghostly possession invokes inside them when they are entombed in these out of body experiences.
As this horror masterclass blazes forward, the Phillippou brothers orchestrate some of the most horrifying scenes to be witnessed in the cinema this year. Dismally embarrassing consequences of the spirits hold over these friend’s soon become the least of their worries as they come to the realization they may be drifting untethered between the land of the living and the unknown.
The acting performances in this film are as strong as they need to be for a story as overbearingly grim as this one. It is easy to get lost in the overarching terror clinging onto every scene of the film to a point where it’s hard to even focus on the individual actors. As with any A24 horror film, there are brief moments of comedic relief and quirky irony that give leeway to the personalities of each character and their roles in the unfortunate events that unfold.
As I was learning more about the creation of this film I came to the absurd realization that the Phillipou brothers who directed this film were also Youtube content creators in the early 2010’s that made some of the most absurd yet youthfully hilarious videos of that time. The channel was titled RackaRacka, and featured parody and sketch comedy videos that garnered millions of views and were a significant aspect of the online comedy culture of the time. To think that the same minds that created videos such as “Ronald McDonald Chicken Store Massacre,” also put together, albeit 10 years later, the grim collage of mental and physical deterioration that is “Talk to Me,” is truly shocking.
Now, I know this is not a critique of the Phillippous brothers' work in the comedy genre, but their old Youtube videos have not aged very well for me and I was quite perturbed by my 10 11 year old self’s sense of humor when I delved back into their work, however the jokes and slights written into the chaos of “Talk to Me,” did land in just the right spots to get a brief laugh out of the audience.
Sophia Wilde is the lead actress cast in the role of Mia in this film, and she does an excellent job of portraying the slightly offputting, slightly unwilling antagonist of this morally ambiguous tale.
The film does give the viewer a hard time of pointing fingers or establishing anyone as a morally sound or particularly smart person, however, the film also doesn’t allow its characters to overstep their roles and be blatantly evil or stupid, as we’ve become all to accustomed to the unfortunate souls placed in horror movie situations to behave. At the end of the day, it is the conniving spirits who are the true instigators of this extravagant, feral destruction of our characters, which begs me to wonder if we all become purveyors of madness and havoc when our souls become untethered from our grounded bodies; a delightfully grim thought that the Phillippous brothers decided to burden the brave-hearted “Talk to Me,” viewer with.
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