When we lose people we love, we often yearn to speak with them one last time. The lengths some would go to for that conversation may be too great, but any price would be worth it for others. In the directorial debut of Michael & Danny Phillippou, characters find themselves unaware of the power they yield. Yet when the dead create their connections, the results are horrifying. Talk to Me stands out as an early frontrunner for the scariest film of 2023. Yet the visual polish and terrific performances push it to the next level.
Mia (Sophie Wild) found solace in friends after her mother’s death (Alexandria Steffensen). Spending nights with Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Riley (Joe Bird), and their mother, Sue (Miranda Otto), Mia found purpose. Yet one night, they go to a party where Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio) break out an unusual artifact. A plastered hand of a medium gives those who grip it the ability to see and be possessed by the dead. The drug-like high pushes everyone to continue using it until one night, they are visited by an unlikely soul.
The story of a young girl seeking connection feels relatively basic. Yet, in the hands of the Phillippous, the emotional arcs allow us to empathize with Mia’s struggle. The metaphors certainly go beyond lonely teenagers trying to find their place in the world. The direction opens the door for topics like addiction, susceptibility to peer pressure, and our need for social capital to create honest dialogues.
The Phillippous assembled an incredible ensemble for their film, and the crew rises to the occasion. The gorgeous cinematography from Aaron McLisky plays with light and darkness better than any other film in 2023. Yet the makeup and sound teams astonish with their incredible work. Using advanced eye makeup, facial scarring, and full body suits, the practical effects of the makeup astound. With a soundscape as brilliant and loud as Talk to Me, you will find yourself jumping out of your chair.
Wild’s incredible performance further enhances the makeup effects. Due to the structure and her willingness to engage in the drug-like euphoria, the actress works through layers of makeup more than anyone else in the cast. Yet she never loses her ability to communicate with subtle, unnerving movements. The physicality she brings to the table has few equals. Additionally, she unleashes a punishing emotional performance that stands as one of the best of the festival.
Shockingly, the screenplay for Talk to Me plays exceptionally well. The dialogue and immaturity of the teens feel extremely authentic. Starting with the oneupmanship and snappy dialogue, the Phillippous create the high school arrogance to believe your actions have no consequences. Dumb friend groups take things too far, setting up the inevitable clash between the relic and the kids wielding it.
Talk To Me does suffer with long stretches where very little occurs. While a nitpick, this does feel like the difference between a seasoned director and the first-time filmmakers here. A few overextended scenes decrease the tension as we move toward the climax. It’s crazy, but this movie could have been scarier if they continued to leave us in the horrors on screen.
A wild time with an excellent performance at its center, Talk to Me stands out for its sleek visuals and stunning craftwork. There’s no doubt that Talk to Me will make waves when it lands in theaters. One of the most violent and grotesque films of 2023 is sure to churn a few stomachs as it scares the shit out of the audience.