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Review of an Australian horror film that’s a hit in local theaters, ‘Talk to Me’

August 6, 2023 Mario Bautista 519 views

Talk1TALK to Me’ is an Australian horror movie starring unknowns that was the object of a bidding war between various international distributors after it was shown at the Sundance Filmfest in January.

The directorial debut of Danny and Michael Philippou from Adelaide, South Australia, the movie has a shocking opening scene. A young man goes to a party looking for his brother. He finds him in a room, heavily tattooed and looking like he wants to kill himself. Instead, his brother suddenly stabs him then stabs his own face.

We are then introduced to the central character, Mia (Sophie Wilde), a black teenager who is living with the family of her best friend, Jade (Alexandra Jensen), her brother Riley (Charlie Bird) and their mom (Miranda Otto.)

Going home one night, she and Riley see an animal dying on the road, the victim of hit and run. Riley asks her to end the crying animal’s misery by running over it but Sophie declines to do it.

We learn later that Mia is grieving over the tragic death of her own mom, who died of drug overdose. This gives her sleepless nights and she is also emotionally distant to her dad so she stays with Jade’s family.

While attending a party, she is urged to play a morbid game whose weird effects on players are being circulated online. The games requires the contestant to touch a ceramic hand then say: “Talk to me”. This will give him the chance to be able to communicate with spirits from the great beyond.

Inside the ceramic hand is said to be the real embalmed hand of the guy who killed his brother then killed himself at the film’s prologue. Wanting to talk to her dead mother, Mia tries the game but sees some other malevolent spirit instead, that threatens Riley.

The next night, they play the game again and Riley implores them to let him play it. Jade is against the idea, but Mia lets Riley play and it’s the spirit of Mia’s dead mother that possesses the boy.

The group wants to stop the game but Mia stops them, wanting to talk her mom.

But Riley is possessed by other spirits unleashed by the hand and they make him violently harm his own self by smashing his face and head on the table. It’s so gruesome as he even tries to pluck out his own eye from its socket.

Everyone is horrified and restrains Riley from further hurting himself. Badly mangled, he is taken to the hospital. Mia is now haunted by her mom. Jade and her mom send her away, blaming her for Riley’s injuries.

Things get from bad to worse. Mia seeks the help of Jade’s boyfriend, Daniel (Otis Dhanji), but she ends up later attacking him and even eating his foot. She later also ends up stabbing her own dad, Max (Marcus Johnson.)

This is about as far as we’ll share. Suffice it to say that Mia can no longer control the frightening supernatural forces that were unleashed by the hand.

The main concept of the sinister embalmed hand used as an instrument for possession is something new in horror films, just like the idea of the deadly phone calls in “The Ring” series. The hand is today’s equivalent of the voodoo black magic or ouija board used before in horror flicks to talk to spirits of the dead.

But it was not developed to the max by the writers-directors so it’s not really scary for us. How we wish they employed some jolting jump scares to spook viewers as the film escalates to its climax.

But it’s nice that’s there is a youthful tone in the film, what with the main cast made up mostly of teenagers who are all attached to their cellphones, like most young people nowadays for whom their gadget are already an extension of their own selves and personalities.

Here, they use it not only for staying connected with each other but also for other things. Mia watches pictures and video footage of her dead mom in it. Riley uses it to make him fall asleep.

The phones are also used to record the awful effects of the hand on its players, like Daniel kissing not only lips to lips but mouth to mouth with a dog (now, this scene is truly not just horrifying but so “kadiri” and we admire the actor who agreed to do such a yucky scene.)

Our main cavil about the movie is that we cannot really sympathize with the beleaguered Mia and Riley is that whatever terrifying experiences they are going through, they most certainly brought it upon themselves.

They should have known better than playing with the supernatural and the occult is bound to go south, specially Riley who’s being prevented to play the game but he was the one who insisted on still doing it, to truly disastrous results. Honestly, our reaction was: “Buti nga sa inyo, yan ang napala nyo!” We empathize with Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” because she didn’t ask to be possessed.

But in all fairness to the cast, they perform quite well, specially Sophie Wilde as the main character, Mia. Her obsession with the hand and contacting the dead, aggravated by her grief and loneliness, makes it like addiction to substance abuse marked with hallucinations that make her do despicable things.

And it’s no doubt a good international debut for the tyro directors. The movie is a big local hit. When we watched it, the theater is full and had more viewers than the much bigger Disney horror flick that opened simultaneously with it, “Haunted Mansion”.

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