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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Talk to Me’ on VOD, a Creepy and Amusing Horror Flick in Which Stupid Teens Toy With Tortured Souls

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Talk to Me (2023)

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Superhero movies are kind of on the outs while “Barbenheimer” is in, but horror movies never really lose their audience. Take Talk to Me (now streaming on VOD services like Amazon Prime Video), a recent teen-freakout creeper that became a sleeper hit like its 2023 brethren, M3GAN, Insidious: The Red Door and Evil Dead Rise. Australian twin brothers and who-says-YouTubers-can’t-be-legit-movie-directors directors Danny and Michael Philippou helm their first feature, a monkey’s-paw-type story about a severed hand encased in ceramic that serves as a conduit for tortured souls to possess living people. They debuted it at Sundance, where it was snapped up by hot-shit distributor A24, who turned it into a $67 million-grossing slow-burn success. But is it worthy of Elevated Horror status, or just another cheapo freakout? That’s what we’re here to figure out, baby.  


The Gist: Wait, did that kid just STAB himself in the FACE? That ain’t right. Quite the cold open you’ve got there, Talk to Me. Now that that unpleasantness is past us, let’s get to our protagonist, Mia (Sophie Wilde), a teen who’s currently enduring the second anniversary of her mother’s death. She took too many sleeping pills. Was it accidental or on purpose? Mia can’t accept the latter. She doesn’t get on very well with her dad these days, so she spends a lot of time at her bestie Jade’s (Alexandra Jensen) house, along with Jade’s mom (Miranda Otto) and younger teen brother Riley (Joe Bird). Mia picks up Riley to give him a ride home and on the way they stop to check out a roadkill kangaroo that’s still alive and obviously suffering. Riley insists they should put it out of its misery and Mia backs up the car and picks up a little speed but stops – she can’t do it. They drive off. This is what you might call an omen, foreshadowing maybe, but definitely a sign of upcoming events of ever-loving ominous portent.

Teens being teens, Mia and Jade are easily bored and therefore easily enticed to slake that boredom by hanging out with dickheads. And the particular dickheads in this story have a creepy-ass embalmed, ceramic-encased hand that’s an implement for one hell of a party trick: First, light a candle. Then, grab the hand like you’re shaking it. Say “talk to me” and suddenly a dead person appears before you, although no one else can see it; the dead person isn’t quite a zombie but it’s definitely corpselike and vaguely goblinesque and no matter who it is, their eyes never seem to point in the same direction. And then you say “I let you in” and your eyes dilate so wide you look like a demonic Baby Yoda and, voila, you’re possessed by the deadite. After 90 seconds, someone blows out the candle and you’re free to return to your normal, non-possessed life.

I, of course, have questions. First, who’s the person who figured out the 90-second rule, and where are they now? And are there any side effects that might linger and make a body lose its mind? Answer to both: Who cares! If you’re a bored teenager, you don’t worry about that because being possessed by haunted-ass boogerslime not-quite-dead-humans is such a trip, everyone takes turns doing it. Tomorrow never comes, motherf—ers!!!!! Anyway, everything goes smashingly fine and the teenagers have pantloads of fun and they only have to deal with their own personal traumas, the end. No! When young Riley decides it’s his turn to get a headful of tortured spirits, things get rather complicated, and it might have something to do with Mia’s poor dead mom. And at this point, I’m done talking to you about this. 

Talk to me
Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Safe to say Talk to Me doesn’t exist without The Evil Dead.

Performance Worth Watching: Consider this Wilde’s official emergence – she inhabits her character in a manner that’s emotionally and pragmatically plausible at every turn.

Memorable Dialogue: I’m gonna leave this one out of context: “What do you mean sucking your feet?”

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: Although Talk to Me isn’t particularly innovative, it does show considerable skill from the Philippous, who show some inspired visual acumen and keenly balance the gross/scary/funny equation, two things that better horror films do. But is it Elevated? On a rudimentary level, I guess it is – it’s about (sigh) trauma, after all. (There are so many movies about trauma. (Will they ever end? (Note: They’ll probably never end.))) It’s not enough for movie teens to function like real teens and be stupid and reckless, like they do here; no, they need to be tortured by grief and pain and loss, case in point Mia, whose particular grief and pain and loss manifests as both plot device and possession-metaphor. Is there a way for horror-movie teens to be sympathetic and relatable without burdening them with dead parents? Then again, we often grouse about flimsy horror-movie teens who exist to be fileted and fricasseed by vampires or stalkers or madpeople or bat beasts or whatever. It’s a good old-fashioned catch-22.

But there’s a sweet spot in there somewhere, where filmmakers can put ingenuity at the forefront and deliver kills and thrills and toss an idea or two in there (It Follows increasingly stands out as the rare example of truly exemplary teen horror). The Philippous take the easy, 21st-century Psych-101 route, for sure, but they show an instinct for blending classic-horror tropes – wily camera movement, lots of deliciously nasty practical effects, fewer chintzy jump scares – into something relatively fresh. They also know how to end a movie with a twist that’s so affecting, you won’t mind at all if and when the inevitable sequel comes around. How many times have you said that about a horror movie?

Our Call: STREAM IT. Talk to Me is a contradiction of sorts, a forward-thinking throwback horror film that synthesizes its influences into something that feels just new enough to make it notable. In a genre chock-full of disposable dreck, it’s not forgettable – and please take that as a compliment, not faint praise.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.