dirs.: Daniel and Michael Philippou
Wow. That first five minutes…
This flick starts with a deceptive scene. It has an energy completely different from the rest of the movie. A brother is trying to find his younger brother at a massive house party, calling out his brother’s name, and asking if anyone has seen Duckett.
At least I think it’s Duckett. As one guy yells in response, who the fuck is Duckett? Is that his first name? Why is he called Duckett? It can’t be his surname; why would he be calling his brother by his surname?
These questions will never be answered but will stay with me forever. That whole sequence is a continuous take, and it’s shocking, its climax is shocking, and then the rest of the flick transpires in a different way and in a different register, thank Christ.
And it’s all the better for it. A whole film like the first five minutes would have killed me.
Instead it becomes a much more relatable story about a kid who misses her mum indulging in the supernatural in order to avoid her obvious problems.
I mean, who hasn’t logged on to a Ouija board in a moment of weakness?
Maybe it’s more of a metaphor for disassociation or mental state altering drug use, but within the context of the flick at least, we know all the cool kids are into this latest trend, because everyone’s filming it and making TikToks out of it.
Two siblings have this weird ceramic hand. The experience is, you strap someone to a chair, they hold the hand, and say the fateful words “Talk to me”. Much to anyone’s shock, but not of the people watching this flick, a spirit appears before you. If you then say “I let you in”, for a period of time that’s not meant to exceed 90 seconds, that supernatural spirit inhabits your body, and gives you an incredible experience.
I mean, the experience itself looks fucking horrific – the participant / victim asphyxiates, their eyes turn black, they do and say all sorts of horrible / mundane things. In one particularly horrible scene an avowed evangelical Christian boy who gets caught up in these shenanigans gets possessed by some particularly horny spirit that makes him grind on the floor and make out noisily and lustily with a bulldog.
Yes, horrifying stuff. But the far more relevant horror is that these spirits, who persist in some kind of limbo, some in-between place, who give these kids these euphoric feelings during these possessions, if only briefly, they really seem to hate the living.
Mia (Sophie Wilde) was a mess before all of this tomfoolery with the severed hand, because she is still grieving her mother’s death. Questions still persist in her mind as to what actually happened to her mother, and she can’t bring herself to even look at her father. For much of the film when he’s trying to talk to her, he’s out of focus, as Mia tries to ignore him. Poor bastard.
Mia's solace in this world is her friendship with Jade (Alexandra Jensen) her little brother Riley (Joe Bird) and their mum Sue (Miranda Otto), giving her a home away from home. When Jade forgets to pick her little brother up, he calls Mia to come get him.
Of the siblings, one of whom, Haley (Zoe Terakes) hates Mia because, I dunno, she can’t stand her and is always running her down, and the other cheerful guy Joss (Chris Alosio), I don’t know what’s in it for them to inflict the hand on other kids. They don’t charge for it. They try to be careful and not let people be possessed completely by the spirits, so it’s not out of malice. It’s usually pulled out as a party trick, and filmed and uploaded by the masses, so it’s not a secret.
Haley specifically singles out Mia’s general mopiness and depressed nature as the reasons she dislikes her.
Harsh, that’s pretty harsh. Especially when someone is dealing with so much grief.
Mia loves using the hand. They all love using the hand, no matter how gruesome the sights nor how awful the spirits that take them over.
And they have the routine: no longer than 90 seconds, and blow out the lit candle to send the spirit back. They might have well have said “don’t get them wet, and don’t feed them after midnight.” Inevitably, someone’s going to go longer than 90, and forget about the candle.
When it happens, it’s to the person it should not have happened to the most, and it results in horrific injuries, as the spirits that took over are able to do horrifying damage to the “vessel” they have chosen.
And, of course, Mia is to blame, because when someone is taken over by a spirit she thinks is her dead mother, of course she needs to risk that person’s wellbeing by letting it go on as long as possible.
Because anything can be an analogue for anything else, and the “challenge” these kids put themselves through could just as easily be the nutmeg challenge, the ice bucket challenge, or the Tide pod challenge, it all just looks like the equivalent of hard drugs from a parental / adult point of view.
When one of the kids ends up with horrifying injuries, and indeed seems permanently possessed by something, we see a shift occur in the film. Jade lashes out at Mia, Jade’s mum Sue is convinced Mia gave hard core drugs to her precious little boy (who volunteered and whined for this experience, I’ll point out), but Mia is cast out of her home away from home.
So naturally she has to return to her actual home, where her father has something to share about what really happened to her mum, his wife.
For all its adherence to horror tropes and horrific imagery, this is still a story about someone unable to process their grief for a dead loved one, doing all sorts of things in order to keep avoiding accepting that death for what it was, and listening to the sweet lies of the spirits in order to stay in their unhearing bubble.
That’s a glib way of describing it, but Mia, or at least the actor playing her, really carries it off well. It’s only when it’s too late that we start to realise that the real monster maybe isn’t the supernatural, but the lengths some people will go to keep living a lie. And even then the flick finds the perfect way to resolve this crisis, which seems like it’s going in one particularly gruesome direction, until it swerves massively.
And, my gods, that ending. Quite often horror flicks especially profoundly fuck up their endings, but ye gods and little fishes, not this flick. The ending could not have been more perfect. I defy you to describe any flick that came out this year with an ending as superbly apt as this one.
And, also, shout out to the young Greek Australians that made this, and clustered their whole extended family and friends into that last scene. I cannot tell you how much I laughed, even as I had chills, when one chap, presumably one of the directors, urged on another chap, presumably the other director, by muttering in Greek “Say it, dude”, before he says the closing lines, in English of course.
Full circle. Such a good, keen film. The last time I saw a horror flick this well done and from South Australia, it was called The Babadook, and though they’re completely different films, they are both great in their own ways. This one will (unfortunately) lead to a bunch of sequels, because it’s just too easy, the severed hand could turn up anywhere, and no need to bring any of the same characters / actors back each time. I am betting my left kidney right now that a sequel will come out and be called Talk 2 Me, to be followed by the inevitable Talk to M3. But let’s not lament things before they happen.
Talk to Me. Solid horror flick, well done everybody.
8 times I’ve already had several nights of nightmares, thanks out of 10
“Apparently, it was the hand of someone who could connect with the dead, right, so everyone around him thought, let's just cut his hand off. White people shit, man. I tell you.” – tell me about it - Talk to Me