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Sophie Wild in Talk to Me
Sophie Wild in Talk to Me

Pop CultureJuly 31, 2023

Review: Talk to Me is tense, terrifying and totally terrific

Sophie Wild in Talk to Me
Sophie Wild in Talk to Me

Want to be really, really scared? A24’s new Aussie seance horror is the frightfest you’ve been looking for, writes Chris Schulz.

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She didn’t want to go. Wasn’t interested. Wouldn’t even watch the trailer. The answer was a hard pass for four straight days. Then something changed. My persistence paid off. Finally, late one recent Friday night, I drove my partner to a darkened mall in Tauranga, plied her with popcorn and ice cream, and we entered a theatre for an advance screening of Talk to Me. The hyped new horror hit is debuting in theatres at a time when Barbie has seen overwhelming enthusiasm for big screen experiences, so there were plenty of people there wanting to know what all the buzz was about.

I knew exactly what we were in for. Big things are expected from Talk To Me, an Aussie horror from A24 which lands with the same kind of hype that surrounded that other big Oz fright-fest The Babadook. “There’s a refreshing ruthlessness to this cautionary tale that plays like a surge of adrenaline,” is what horror site Bloody Disgusting has to say about it. Reviews like that have helped build hype. So too have those advance screenings. Viewers have reported being shaken to their core by what unfolds, an updated Poltergeist for our times.

My partner knew none of this. She went in cold. I couldn’t tempt her with the backstory, how it was made by two Adelaide YouTubers, then picked up by A24. She wanted none of that. She was there for a night away from the kids and, more importantly, some decent snacks. All she knew was what was right up there on the screen. Within the first few minutes of Talk To Me, someone stabs themselves squarely in the face. Viral videos show teens being possessed by a haunted hand. When someone’s eyes roll back in their head and they make out with a dog – yes, there’s tongue – she turned to me and mouthed: “What the fuck have you done?”

She has a point. Depending on your pressure points, Talk to Me can be a punishing watch. The film follows a group of teens taking turns connecting to the other side, talking to those living in the afterlife. You shake the hand and say, “Talk to me”, then, “Let me in”. Your deal with the devil is done.

From there, it’s anyone’s guess as to what might happen, what you might see, who may possess you, and what they could make you do. As you can probably tell, it all goes pretty horribly wrong. You’re only supposed to stay in touch with the ghosts and ghouls for 90 seconds, but that rule doesn’t stick. Soon, that hand is talking far more than it should. It has some pretty grisly things to say.

Talk to Me is an impressive twist on the seance horror genre, kind of like Flatliners meets Hereditary and anything containing a ouija board. The fact that it’s Australian made it feel more real to me, and having New Zealand actors Miranda Otto and Chris Alosio show up also helps. A star turn by the film’s lead Sophie Wild, in a searing performance that reminds me of Keke Palmer’s unnerving turn in Nope, also contributes to the fright factor. Even my partner admits Wild is terrific, despite the chaos around her.

Crucially, Talk to Me doesn’t devolve into a blood-drenched gore fest. The finale is far more chilling than that, and shows there’s real thought and feelings at play here. It’s a film that has plenty to say about death, grief, what may come next and the impact on those left behind. If they’re questions you don’t want to examine in a depraved way inside a darkened theatre, then Talk to Me may not be for you. It wasn’t for my partner, but it’s been two weeks since we saw it and we’re still talking about it. Grisly stuff aside, surely that’s the definition of a very good film.

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