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Review: Talk to Me. How to not get inspiration from previous films

  • Release year: 2022
  • Director: Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou.
  • Producers: Kristina Ceyton and Samantha Hennings.
  • Screenplay by: Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman.
  • Cinematographer: Aaron McLisky.
  • Music by: Cornel Wilczek.

Synopsis: A group of teenagers contact the dead and let them possess them through a hand sculpture. When they break the rules of the ritual, the dead start possessing the living.

Shotgun Commentary: the plot of Insidious (2010) with the violence of Hereditary (2018).

A black man looking up with his eyes black. He is being possesed by a spirit.
Fig. 1. The current owner of the hand, Joss (Chris Alosio), letting a spirit in.
Source: Talk to Me (Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, 2022).

Review

As mentioned in the shotgun commentary, Talk to Me inherits Hereditary‘s violence, road kills included. It also imitates this film’s portrayal of the level of stupidity that a teenager is capable of. Those features were the worst part of a mediocre film that, to this day, I still can not understand why so many people think is great, but that is a review for another day. I mentioned these characteristics because Talk to Me copies them to a T.

Newsflash: violence isn’t scary

Road kills can be forgiven, but trying to create fear out of people ramming their heads into different hard surfaces is overused and cheap. It is a jumpscare like any other, but without the tension factor. Yeah, it works the first time, but the other 3684, you are just waiting for it to be over so you can see the makeup department’s flex (who, by the way, really show off their talent in this feature).

A black dead woman smiling. Her eyes are white and her skin is rotting.
Fig. 2. Mia’s mom Rhea (Alexandria Steffensen) appearing in front of Mia.
Source: Talk to Me (Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, 2022).

The first time I remember seeing that was in Hereditary, and it made me laugh because it was so unsolicited and random, it didn’t even cross my mind that it was supposed to be scary. Having seen that before, not only it is still not impressing, but it’s also not even funny anymore. My only though after the first hit was “Oh no, not this AGAIN”.

Are teens getting dumber?

A few senseless decisions in a horror movie are understandable, maybe even part of the charm. However, in a film that tries to portray the teenage panorama so faithfully, with proper diversity and phone abuse and all that, this portrayal makes me think that either all teenagers are dumb af or the writers have never been teenagers. The fact that it is probably the first option is the most scary part of the movie. People just recording other people’s suffering instead of helping like they are some sort of National Geographic docummentarians really makes my blood go cold.

The one good choice

The only Hereditary scene that makes sense to copy because of the tension it produces is the one that features a dead person going towards the main character’s bed. A corpse going towards you while you are in bed is one of the scariest situations you can show in horror, but it doesn’t make it any less of a repetition from Hereditary. It would be great on its own, but along with the other similarities it just feels like one more in the list of emulated scenes.

A kid sleeping while a rotting hand approaches to touch his face.
Fig. 3. A spirit touches Riley’s (Joe Bird) face while he’s sleeping. Source: Talk to Me (Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, 2022).

Insidious‘ echoes

The plot, regrettably, is also not new at all. There has been a lot of horror content featuring astral projection, even if no one says the term out loud throughout the film. Talk to Me is the story of a kid that leaves his body and other spirits want to get inside.

The answer is yes, the story is basically Insidious after some minor appearance changes like teen characters instead of adults. Sadly, this version is not even close to the level of fear Insidious provokes. In this case, the horror just comes from blood and gruesome bodies, the more naked and gooey, the better.

She is just the worst

While Sophie Wilde does a good job with her portrayal of Mia, it is impossible to empathise with her. It is not a matter of acting, it is the way the character was written, her actions and attitude.

She is a girl who knows no boundaries when it comes to being in someone else’s house, including putting her shoes on her friend’s bed (who does that?). At first you think it is a normal thing between best friends, but you see that Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Mia’s friend, is not too thrilled about her just appearing there unannounced.

Four teenagers are looking, concerned, at another one that is in front of them
Fig. 4. Jade having enough of Mia for the umpteenth time since the film started.
Source: Talk to Me (Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, 2022).

You then feel sorry because it seems like she inserted herself into the Jade’s family because her own is depressing since her mum died. But, what about her dad? Mia is not the only one that lost someone and yet she shows absolutely no empathy for her dad’s loss.

If that wasn’t enough, she gets Jade’s little brother to do something Jade herself just told him not to do. She knows it is dangerous and possibly quite humiliating, and yet she lets him do it the second Jade is not in the room. Plus, she flirts with her boyfriend and tries to steal it from her? C’mon, how are we supposed to even mildly tolerate her?

The expected gift

Although I must admit that my patience for bullsh*t is decreasing due to the horror binge that I am indulging myself with this October, Mia does nothing throughout the film to make you root for her at all. In fact, you’ll be wishing that the film is predictable and gives her the ending everyone can see coming from minute ten-ish. Luckily, it is and it does. Do with that what you will.

A young woman with her eyes close cries while her dead mother caresses her face.
Fig. 5. Possibly Rhea talking to Mia from the beyond. Source: Talk to Me (Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, 2022).

If you enjoyed Hereditary, you might like Talk to Me too. Just don’t expect to get your mind blown, there is nothing specially imaginative in here.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • If there is only ONE rule to talk to the supernatural hand, maybe FOLLOW THE F*CKING RULE?!
  • If the living say one thing, and the dead with unknown origin or faces say another, maybe trust the living until you find some proof otherwise?
  • This is basic decency but after watching this film I feel like it might be necessary to clarify it: if someone is in danger or having a terrible problem, maybe use your phone to call an ambulance instead of making a TikTok?
Five teenagers sitting in a sofa laugh while they record what is happening in front of them.
Fig. 6. Everyone recording while Hayley (Zoe Terakes) is in a trance. Source: Talk to Me (Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou, 2022).

What’s your take? Did you watch the short films before the feature? Does it make any difference? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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