Director: Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou
Cast: Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes, Chris Alosio, Marcus Johnson, Alexandria Steffensen
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Horror)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 27 July 2023
Synopsis: When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.
Looking for a supernatural number to unnerve you? Let’s just say 2023 is the redemption arc of cinema. The gore unravels with a preluding scene of a rave party gone wrong where a big brother is seen bailing his little brother out of what seems to be an eerily ambiguous situation before progressing to present day where the rest of the film shadows Mia (Sophie Wilde) who suspects her dad to be having skeletons in the closet about her mum's sudden passing. The only family that feels like her own would be her bestie Jade (Alexandra Jensen), her brother Riley (Joe Bird), and of course their mother, Sue (Miranda Otto).
Hailed for all the right reasons, this smart horror drama features an embalmed hand that gets kids hooked on to the thrill of the chase as it eventually leads them to opening the doors to darker realms of predatory forces. The root of the possession which is the hand of a medium that was severed, embalmed and coated in ceramic, was allegedly passed down an untraceable chain of one-friend-to-another dynamic.
In an age where almost anything has the competence to go viral, even a person's demonic possession isn’t spared of the forbidding culture of social media sharing. Getting temporarily possessed is deemed as uber-cool by the bunch of kids and Mia seeks a different kind of solace in it. And the drill morphs into a familiar thrill, thus propelling the plot forward.
Based on a concept by Daley Pearson, the directorial and theatrical debut of the Philippou brothers isn't just a supernatural number that has possession as its core theme. It delves deeper into how grief and trauma can easily be an open invitation to dark entities if left unhealed and carries a subtle yet pristine clear message to stay away from the unbeknownst.
It is incredible to know that the zany 30-year-olds also known as the Racka Racka Boys who rose to fame with their YouTube channel, have now made a film that was premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. What makes this a professional glow up for the twins is how much they have evolved from doing skits back in the day and almost killing themselves to making one of the most authentic scary movies that will be remembered far into the future. The Indie film by the pair of twins has certainly kept the clichés of the Australian landscape such as the Outback to a minimal but still left their Oz handprint behind with a kangaroo scene at the beginning which is a dope move. Can the duo be crowned as the Masters of Horror? Given the brutal and tense psychological aspect that effortlessly veers the plot and characters to centre stage, while effectively making the paranormal film a gripping watch, it is a resounding yes for now!
From convincing onscreen chemistry to a foreboding atmosphere that plays a critical role in the steady build-up of the unnerving horror, there's a lot to like about this plucky film. The first couple of minutes dedicated to the establishment of the characters may feel a little draggy. And it is swiftly counterpoised with the young actors' compelling performances which can be safely dubbed as something beyond their years.
Well-known for her role in BBC's You Don't Know Me television series, Sophie Wilde’s performance that treats us to a hair-raising experience cemented beneath a roller coaster of emotions is likely to alter her filmography and set her soaring to greater heights. It's another one of those rare plots that is cleverly weaved to have the audience wonder if the protagonist could be the antagonist. Beyond the veil of kids-summon-demon-and-the-demon-stays- around kind of narrative, the high-octane horror delves deeper into how a person’s psyche is affected after a loved one’s demise and what lengths they would even go to in order to numb their pain.
Here's what elevates the spine-tingler on the whole. A predominantly Australian stellar cast, decent framing, highly-memorable scenes and props, with somewhat familiar yet effective horror tropes. Lit soundtracks and popping camerawork! All of it on a noticeable small budget. And not forgetting the unique Aussie twang which demands a more cultured ear to make out certain nuances adds to the allure of the movie. Also, one may expect timely humour in the least anticipated places.
Talk To Me hovers above other corny, soft teen horror flicks that are highly predictive. This unsettling supernatural skin-crawler, makes one gasp and grimace, without the use of unnecessary jump scares. While the spiritual trajectory of the embalmed hand is left untold, it would be an absolute treat if a prequel on how the cursed hand came about is made.
If you dismiss it as just another classic summoning-of-the-dead-gone-wrong concept, be prepared to be surprised. While feeling like a (healthy) throwback film to early 2000s where 'prop' horror was rampant, the theatrical trailer doesn't do enough justice to what the 95 minutes has to offer. So sit back and let the embalmed hand that has already decided the fates of many beckon you to the edge of your seats.
(Love some goosebumps galore? Talk to the hand with this modern Australian cult horror masterpiece that boasts visceral thrills and skin crawling dread)
Review by Asha Gizelle Mariadas