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Review: Talk to Me (2023)

Talk to Me (2023)

Directed by: Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou

Premise: A group of teenagers use a porcelain hand with magical properties to communicate with the dead. One of the teenagers gets possessed and his friends try to unravel the supernatural forces afflicting him.

What Works: Talk to Me is a possession horror picture with a unique angle. The film begins with an upbeat tone. Teenagers play with a magical artifact that allows them to communicate with the dead much like teens may gather to use a Ouija board or tarot cards. The ritual allows the undead to come inside of the participant and possess their body; the connection has to be severed within ninety-seconds to keep the invading spirit from getting a permanent grip on the host. The teenagers treat this ritual as a game, daring one another to take turns and recording the results with their phones. It’s a credible scenario. If teenagers discovered a magical artifact this is almost certainly how it would be used. The party scenes are funny, mixing the supernatural with goofy teenage antics, but things quickly take a turn when Riley (Joe Bird) is permanently possessed by an aggressive spirit. The switch in tones is handled quite well and the moviemakers shock the viewer with the sudden violence of the possession. The film is quite scary with a spooky atmosphere. The line between the realms of the living and the dead are blurred and the filmmakers set up effective scares. Talk to Me is so involving because it takes time to set up the characters. The central relationship between best friends Mia and Jade (Sophie Wilde and Alexandra Jensen) is complicated and Mia recently lost her mother, adding grief to the supernatural mix. The film also features Miranda Otto as Jade and Riley’s mother and Otto also gets a lot of humor and adds some familial reality to the movie.  

What Doesn’t: The weakest element of Talk to Me is the logic of the story world. The initial ritual around the magical ceramic hand is brilliantly simple but as the movie goes on the metaphysics become less coherent. There don’t seem to be any rules for the supernatural creatures as they cross between the realms of the living and the dead. The motive of the supernatural beings is also fuzzy. Even the specters of the original Poltergiest were eventually revealed to have an underlying desire that motivated their paranormal activity. Riley is held in a coma by evil spirits but it’s never clear why. The film doesn’t have to overexplain it but the conflict of Talk to Me remains opaque and as a result the stakes of rescuing Riley from purgatory lack urgency. The fuzzy rules of the story world make the end of the film confusing.

Bottom Line: Talk to Me is a fun horror picture. The filmmakers play fast and loose with the internal story logic but the film is scary in a light and entertaining way and it’s populated by engaging characters who have some depth to their relationships.

Episode: #960 (August 6, 2023)