Possessed hands and terrifying visions: “Talk to Me” delivers chills and surprises

When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits with an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill and high-stakes party game -- until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces. — Arts & Entertainment / Al Harmon

“Talk to Me,” opens with a gripping moment of sudden violence that leaves the audience enthralled and wanting more. It takes a cliche horror movie troupe of a possessed item and makes it its own while relying on building tense and eerie moments and adding sporadic gruesome imagery. 

The film was released on July 28, 2023, by the independent entertainment company, A24. This Australian supernatural horror film was the directorial debut of Danny and Michael Phillipou, whose names you may recognize from the YouTube channel RackaRacka.

The premise is simple, a group of teens gather around a severed hand encased in ceramic. While holding it they can see the dead and allow themselves to be possessed. They have 90 seconds to break the connection or else they will be haunted by the spirits. The film centers on Mia, played by Sophie Wilde. It’s yet another film that sees the protagonist dealing with the loss of a family member, in this case, her mother.

Although the way Wilde portrays Mia, she succeeds in having you sympathize with her loss and in hindsight allows you to forgive some of the decisions she would later make in the film. The rest of the teens worth mentioning are her best friend Jade, played by Alexandra Jensen, and Jade’s younger brother Riley, played by Joe Bird. The chemistry between all three feels natural and you know a horror film is doing right when you care for the characters when in peril. 

Wilde and Bird have stand-out performances that leave you disturbed whenever the entities take hold of the host. Wilde’s facial expressions and mannerisms elevate her first possession scene in which her memorable line of, “run, run, run,” is disturbing and uncomfortable. Bird’s possession is just as disturbing but one of the best-directed sequences. It’s a slow build in which the entity hits on Mia’s vulnerability by portraying her mother, which in turn makes Riley go over the time limit.

Bird shows his range as Riley has a heartwarming moment alongside Mia, and then instantly switches into a violent rage in which he self-inflicts some grotesque injuries. The directors Danny and Michael are known for their over-the-top violence in their YouTube videos, which is why this scene is so disturbing to watch. 

Veteran actress Miranda Otto, who plays Sure and is Riley and Jade’s mother, also gives a great performance. Her scenes alongside the other teens never felt out of place and never felt as filler, as some horror films tend to drag as we wait for the next scare. While films today try to force-feed comedy, the instances in which Otto uses it feel natural and receive a legitimate laugh. Otto elevates the scenes in which the teens are dealing with the aftermath of Riley’s injuries because she feels like a mother experiencing grief. 

The less one talks about the ending the better of an experience you’ll have. Overall, the film is well written and directed and the actors elevate the material with convincing portrayals of possessions. The film never felt slow or choppy, but they could have explained the rules of the possessions a little better.

However, that might have been on purpose as the backstory of the hand is left a mystery. Directors Danny and Michael put out a film that proves horror can still be terrifying which is why “Talk to Me,” has been receiving universal praise with a prequel already in the works. So, if you want to switch it up a little from the usual Jason, Freddy Krueger, or Conjuring films this Halloween season, then this is the film for you.

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