Director – Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou – 2022 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 94m
Under peer pressure, a teenager takes her turn contacting undead spirits at a party, with devastating consequences – out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 28th
For me, this was probably always going to be an uphill struggle: people wilfully contacting undead spirits really isn’t my idea of fun (and I knew that going in). It starts off really well, with a Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) vibe as a lengthy widescreen shot effortlessly glides around a teenage party culminating in an horrific knife murder and suicide.
After this, it switches to other characters. Mia (Sophie Wilde) hasn’t got over the death of her mother two years ago, and goes to a party with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) where the host produces the embalmed hand of a psychic.
Apparently, if you grasp the hand and say first “talk to me” then “I let you in”, the first spirit in the vicinity will possess you. “It’s always different,” says the girl who produced the hand, who also informs them that it mustn’t last more than 90 seconds, because after that the possessing host can’t be sent back to the place from whence it came. Perhaps for reasons of attention seeking, peer pressure and just plain old wanting to fit in, Mia agrees to do this after watching a couple of other people try it.
And, at this point, for me, the film completely fell apart. I was wondering, why would you even want to think about doing this to yourself? I could not get past this character motivation. It simply did not and still does not make any sense to me. And if that doesn’t make sense, since it’s the element on which the film hangs, the whole thing is never going to work.
Outside of that, there is much to admire – the characters are deftly sketched and performed. Mia’s friend Jade has a younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) and a tough, no nonsense mum (Miranda Otto from The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, Peter Jackson, 2002), who can read her kids like a book and is fully aware of everything they might get up too (except it’s not occurred to her that they might contact undead spirits). Riley, desperate to be accepted by the older teenagers, also does the “talk to me” thing with the hand, and it works out much worse for him, giving rise to horrific and violent acts of self-harm. He’s hospitalised. On discovering the state he’s in later, his mum is understandably furious. Without describing what happens next, the tale moves on at a good pace. And there’s a likeable Australian feel to the whole.
However, as I say, I couldn’t buy into the foundational idea that anyone would actually want to put themselves through this ritual in the first place. Maybe it’s my Christian upbringing and its accompanying exposure to the Biblical imperative against communicating with the dead. For that reason, I found it seriously implausible and sat there being bored for the duration; it’s not a film I’d recommend.
Talk To Me is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 28th.