You Should Talk to Me (2023) About One of the Best Horror Films of the Year
Title: Talk to Me
First Non-Festival Release: July 26, 2023 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Writer: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Starring: Sophia Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
If you could talk to anyone who is dead, who would it be? There are plenty to choose from and for many reasons. Some might prefer someone famous or from a specific place in the world, but others may want some final precious moments with a loved one.
That’s what Mia (Sophia Wilde) would want, and she gets her wish in a twisted way. After dragging her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and her younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) to a party, Mia is offered the chance to play a dark game that is going viral in her community. The rules are simple: take hold of the hand of a dead medium, say the words “talk to me” and “I let you in”, and for ninety seconds, you can experience possession. It’s important that the connection is severed after ninety seconds. When the spirit of Mia’s late mother appears, she decides to push her luck to get one last chance to speak to her with devastating consequences.
Deliciously downbeat and infectiously scary, Talk to Me proves that the potency of possession horror comes down to an excellent script.
Flipping the script on typical possession films, Talk to Me offers up a unique setup for its demonic horror. Instead of inadvertently stumbling upon something dangerous or otherwise being cursed with the demonic presence in their lives, the characters of Talk to Me willingly put themselves in a position of being possessed. For thrills, social media attention, and pushing the boundaries, they find themselves taken to the edge of their humanity again and again until they press too far, leading to a disastrous chain of events. While some films take a similar approach, Talk to Me differs in its unique avenue of contacting the spirits. A medium’s amputated, mummified hand allows its reckless characters the ability to experience an addictive rush. Iconic in imagery and inventive in its mythology, Talk to Me showcases its creativity in concept.
Talk to Me succeeds for many reasons but above all, it paints a terrifying and intoxicating portrait of evil that sticks with audiences. Not every character finds the game exciting or safe, but for those that have a reason to live life on the edge, it presents a dilemma. Participating can mean feeling something, even just for a moment, but taking it too far can mean losing yourself or your life. The addiction of this feeling leaves some of the older teens venturing further away from safety with little immediate concern. When they push it too far, things go south quickly. Much like the addictive nature of drugs, the possession sequences mimic the exact kind of pressure teenagers face when presented with an outlet that promises to alleviate them of pain or gain social favor. An on-the-nose metaphor, but an apt one when depicting insurmountable emotions made even more difficult to manage thanks to raging hormones. Thankfully, Talk to Me spends more time on the character development of its teenagers to show how and why it comes to be this way than spending too much time making a PSA.
The destructive force of trauma is an all-encompassing aspect of Mia’s life, and the consequences of these unaddressed issues leads her down a dark path. After losing her mother and wandering through life just above a daze, she is clearly searching for more. When the promise of seeing her mother and talking with her one last time presents itself, she cannot help but let it overtake her. The only way to make the pain disappear is to get the answers she desperately longs for, even though it becomes increasingly clear that she is being made a fool by the malevolent spirits. As she tries to fix the mess she made, she only hurts her friends and family more. Years of pent of frustration, rage, and sadness unleash like a wave of water breaking free from a dam. Unfortunately, this makes her the perfect victim for the forces beyond. Talk to Me showcases the dangers of letting someone be consumed by their trauma, especially impressionable young people. Even though there are people that care for Mia and show it, without the root causes of her issues being addressed, it isn’t enough.
Across the board, the cast of Talk to Me delivers excellent performances but Sophia Wilde commands the film with aplomb most often seen in veteran actors. Without Sophia Wilde, Talk to Me would not be as impactful. She steals every scene she is in while delivering a truly heart wrenching performance from beginning to end. At her most devious, Wilde is especially adept at possession scenes, physically and vocally creating some seriously skin crawling moments when communicating with the spirits. Her grief is not only apparent but soul-crushing to watch happen in real time. Wilde’s daring performance reminds audiences about the humanity in the chaos of a lonely, heart-broken girl.
A technical marvel, Talk to Me excels in crafting its devilishly dark vision thanks to impressive cinematography and set design. Stunning and sharp cinematography elevate the already fantastic writing to new heights. Some of the most brutal and unforgettable moments of the year come from the brief glimpses into the other world inhibited by the demons and lost souls of the hand. Its depiction of ongoing suffering is diverse in its approach too. From a haunting vision of hell basking in a dull glaze of red and a chorus of screams to the banal emptiness of the afterlife, Talk to Me nails the aesthetic perfectly.
Talk to Me is easily one of the best horror films of the year. Excellent in every conceivable way, it manages to straddle the lines between scary, moving, and entertaining as hell. Strong production values, terrific performances, and pitch-perfect writing make this possession film not only a standout for the year but one of the best in the last two decades. There isn’t much left to say about A24’s latest hit, go see it now!
Overall Score? 9/10