The rumor that emanated from Sundance was true. Talk to Me, by twins Danny and Michael Philippou, is one of the most disturbing works of the year, plunging into the very heart of horror. It’s hard not to come out haunted.
This isn’t another, quick-forgotten possession flick like The Pope’s Exorcist and Insidious: The Red Door hit theaters earlier this year. On the contrary, the first feature film by Australian filmmakers draws on the source of the classic The Exorcist, by William Friedkin, to offer unsuspected variations.
The most eloquent is to situate the action in today’s adolescent reality, dictated by social networks and online videos. In order to have fun, friends decide to film themselves during a session of possession which consists of shaking a strange hand and saying “speak to me” in order to welcome the spirit of a deceased person into themselves. No one, however, held said hand longer than 90 seconds…
However, this is the feat of Mia (Sophie Wilde), who tries to mourn her mother and forget her father’s depression by losing herself in this game. These seances have the effect of a dope. Especially in this solitary and unstable being whose only desire by clinging to this hand is to create contact with others.
This is where a gap opens between the virtual and spiritual world. Mia’s mother emanates from it, further weakening the psychological and mental health of her daughter, who no longer distinguishes illusions from reality.
Sophie Wilde is the vehicle par excellence of all this suffering, carrying the story on her shoulders. A first big role in the cinema for this star in the making. She is surrounded by convincing new faces, including the dumbfounded one of the grieving Joe Bird on whom fate befalls.
The practical special effects and old-fashioned make-up bring a significant charm to the whole. This is particularly the case during the delirious and nightmarish possession sequences that go off the beaten track, creating their share of chills.
A daring mix of genres that could hardly have come from a major Hollywood studio.
Once the disturbing introduction is over, the film meticulously builds its atmosphere using astonishing sound effects that develop the atmosphere and keep the spectators on the end of their armchair. An intensity of each moment, unfortunately attenuated by a few gratuitous bursts.
This tension culminates in a thrilling conclusion that gives new meaning to everything that precedes. A reversal of the situation which is reminiscent of The Others, by Alejandro Amenábar.
In addition to bringing new blood to a worn-out concept, Talk to Me builds its own mythology, much like Ari Aster’s Hereditary or Jordan Peele’s Get Out. All the elements are there – the bloodied kangaroo, the yellow dominating a singular color code, the toe-bound spell – to foster repeat viewings and make the effort cult. It would be fully deserved, even if it is more very good entertainment than a new reference in the field.