With nearly 100,000 people descending upon Austin, TX for the entire SXSW experience, you’re guaranteed to encounter a few crazy characters. And as I patiently awaited the screening for A24’s newly acquired Sundance horror hit, Talk To Me, in the lobby of the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse, a boisterous duo took to the small and intimate makeshift Red Carpet at the festival venue. They were an animated pair, flipping off the cameras and rolling on the ground pretending to take part in a violent stomping scene as the pictures continued snapping. It was, by far, the rowdiest Red Carpet experience I’ve ever witnessed (and there have been many).
Shortly after, I made my way to the theater in sincere anticipation of what’s been dubbed the “next big horror film”. To my surprise, the same two gentlemen entered the theater to a thunderous applause as they were announced as the directing duo behind Talk To Me. It only took about 95 minutes of unapologetic thrills and sheer insanity to fully understand that this buzzed-about film is a complete byproduct of its writers’ and directors’ own wild nature, and we should be eternally grateful.
The film follows Mia (Sophie Wilde), an Australian teen still scarred by the unexpected loss of her mother. While her relationship with her father has since been frayed by cloudy circumstances surrounding the death, Mia finds solace in her best friend, Jade’s (Alexandra Jensen), welcoming family. Longing for some closure, Mia and Jade decide to take part in the latest underground fad with the cool kids at school. It involves an embalmed hand, the conjuring of spirits, and the introductory phrase, “Talk To Me”. But what begins as a harmless game played during their nightly get-togethers, quickly evolves into a hellish nightmare with deadly consequences.
Twin sibling filmmakers, Danny and Michael Philippou, craft one heck of a debut feature. Talk To Me works on so many levels. Not only as a hip and stylish elevation to the overdone demonic spirit genre, but also as a sleek and compelling tale of psychological fragility. The emotional trauma that haunts Mia serves as the backbone to the film, driving her motives and actions along the way. It’s an essential component that has to be nailed in order to bring the entire movie together. Thankfully, the Philippou’s found a superb lead actress in Sophie Wilde, one whose onscreen prowess perfectly complements the filmmakers’ energetic style. In fact, for a film centered mostly on teenage characters, their entire young cast does a phenomenal job of creating a true and authentic vibe that adds yet another level of sound sturdiness to an already impressive project.
I could go on forever about other shining aspects of the film, like its effective jump scares (thanks to clever directing and camera work) or its excellent use of makeup and aggressive gore during some indescribably visceral onscreen moments, but nothing can prepare you for this absolute thrill ride. And while it’s always cliché and almost expected to hear a new indie horror film coined as the “scariest movie ever” following a successful festival debut, Talk To Me may not be eternally haunting in a “scary” sense, but it will certainly blow your mind.