Horror can be downright unpleasant at times. This includes not just the gore, but also how it is employed. Possession becomes a means of pulverizing their characters in Talk To Me, the feature debut of YouTubers turned directors Danny and Michael Philippou.
In all their stomach-churning viscera, these moments are the highlights of the experience. It comes at the audience with ruthless and gory cinematic lunacy that makes the most of the turmoil that unfolds before you as they grow more extreme.
Even when the picture is unable to sustain this same rapid intensity and is frequently more of a spectacle than a genuinely terrifying experience, the trip along the way can still be a lot of fun. It has been compared to filmmaker Sam Rami’s Evil Dead, which, although not totally inaccurate, overstates its ingenuity significantly. However, when the picture seizes your attention in a few memorable passages, there is something delicious about how it embraces depravity without blinking a bloody eye.
Talk to Me, which operates in close proximity to the transmissible curse subgenre, opens with a man strolling through a party seeking his friend, who is not acting like himself these days. When he finds him, we notice that guy is plainly in a bad way. More than simply a poor trip, he then kills his companion and then himself, all while stunned partygoers record on their phones.
We next meet Mia, played in her feature debut by Sophie Wilde, who is intrigued to take part in a rite that permits the soul of someone who has died to enter your body. It’s like playing supernatural Russian roulette since you have no control over who comes knocking or what they want to steal from you once they do.
This is the game that all the popular kids are playing these days, as seen by footage of them congregating at parties to revel in the mayhem of the supernatural. All you have to do is take an embalmed hand and speak the correct phrases, and your body is no longer yours. The only rule is that it must last more than ninety seconds, or the spirits would want to remain forever. When Sophie tries it out for herself, it works just as described, and she is ecstatic. She and her companions then resolve to do it again, each time testing fate without a care in the world about the unavoidable repercussions.
These possession moments are at the core of the picture and its most compelling. While it is more frightening than terrifying in an over-the-top way, the flair with which it brings them to life is truly great. The scene in which the various people vanish as something else takes over their bodies is portrayed with a sense of levity. In one scene, a character begins criticizing another’s sexual behavior until achieving what amounts to a magical orgasm before making a kiss with the dog. You know, just good old-fashioned good times for everyone.
When he awakens, he is extremely humiliated while everyone else laughs and gawks at his plight, putting films online to share with others as he flees the room. The film may have a light subtext about how young culture is tangled up in vapidity, but it is the least engaging component of the experience.
The pleasures that come from the characters staring into the wide beyond and discovering something peering back are what make it all work. This becomes personal for Mia and connects to familial atrocities from her past, which she begins to question her current perspective.
This more serious aspect of the tale may feel undercooked at first, but it doesn’t pose too many problems after things get truly horrific. Mia’s repression of her history, and how it is suddenly forced to the surface, makes it all the more dangerous. Her rising realization can only come after a genuinely bleak sequence, of which she is a part. Without giving away who it is or what occurs, a younger character close to Mia gets severely hurt after staying under the sway of a spirit for too long at her insistence when she recognizes who has taken over.
This sequence has a boldness to it as the film pushes it further and further. It goes on for so long that you wonder how this unfortunate character’s head is even attached, much alone if he is still alive. Even if the tale might be a little unsteady at points, just taking in the aftermath of this event keeps everything together. Mia’s rising terror of her history and future, in particular, ensures that the excesses stay grounded enough to keep you intrigued.
Is there anything else in the tale that might have used a little more nuance? Absolutely. Is it really a big deal when a character becomes possessed and starts sucking on the feet of others? Most likely not. There’s a fascinating tug-of-war between the film’s desire to express more while being wrapped up in the spectacle.
The way this all culminates in the ending works very nicely, as we see the sad repercussions of Mia’s frantic attempts to find closure and put things right. She carries a great burden on her shoulders that no one else on this level of existence can comprehend or alleviate.
Throughout it all, Wilde provides a fantastic performance, communicating volumes with her physique as we learn when Mia is herself and when she isn’t. When the tables are turned in an absolutely great final shot, it all pays off and smooths over whatever difficulties may have occurred along the way. It’s up to the audience if they can stomach it all the way through, but Talk To Me offers much that promises to captivate the souls of horror sickos searching for a frightening spectacle.