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Is A24's 'Talk To Me' The Scariest Movie Of The Year?

Well, folks. It finally happened. The seemingly endless quest to watch a horror movie that actually scares me has come to an end and I am absolutely traumatized. Talk To Me comes from A24, the same studio who gave us Hereditary, Pearl, X, The Witch, Bodies Bodies Bodies, It Comes At Night and Midsommar. Hereditary starring Toni Collette is a movie I will never watch again because of how deeply it twisted up my literal soul… and I’d say Talk To Me is just a single notch below it.

Some people have been comparing this film to Hereditary in respect to its similar style of horror and you can definitely tell that Talk To Me slides in quite nicely on the shelf next to the other elevated horrors in A24’s impressive slate. Although, what really connects the two films is how well both communicate the trauma and terror these characters live through. Part of the reason I’ll never watch Hereditary again is because of how good everyone involved was at making me feel what this family was going through (a major Oscar snub for Toni Collete we will never forget) and Talk To Me does the same thing just as well.

There is an overwhelming amount of depth to the drama in Talk To Me; you feel physically and viscerally connected to some of the major characters, especially Mia (Sophie Wilde) and Riley (Joe Bird). There are parts in this movie where I was freaking out…hands on my head… pulse bursting out of my neck… palms sweating… on the edge of my seat… eyes glued to the screen. I cannot put into words how well this movie did in stressing me out. And I wasn’t the only one.

Talk To Me is about this group of Australian high schoolers who come across an embalmed hand that was supposedly attached to a medium before they died. Now they use the hand at parties as a fun game because touching it can give you an intense high… but it can also open your body up to spiritual possession and, as you can probably guess, things spiral violently out of control.

There’s been a lot of hype around this movie, mostly because of the story behind the making of it. It’s the feature debut of two Australian youtuber brothers, Danny and Michael Philippou, who are basically living every filmmaker's dream. The film screened at Sundance which is incredibly impressive on its own, but was then also picked up to be distributed for theatrical release by A24 at a seven figure number. This was definitely enough to get film buffs interested in the movie, but then more and more reviews started coming out of people referencing how scary the movie actually is. Now, horror fans are just salivating, eager to watch this and decide for themselves if it’s as spooky as everyone’s saying it is. Spoiler alert… it is!

In every horror movie we get these days, even some of the more high brow flicks, are sprinkled with cheap jump scares. But my favorite part about Talk To Me is there aren’t really any jump scares at all. In fact, there were more jump scares in Oppenheimer than there were in Talk To Me and it was still one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in years. That being said, the way they place the camera in a lot of these shots tricks your mind into believing something is about to pop up at you. There’s often this extra negative space in the frame along with the characters, like an open door with a dark hallway in view or an empty room with a sinister corner just out of sight. The whole time you’re waiting for something or someone to pop out of the shadows. But jump scares are genuinely unnecessary because the uneasiness one feels when a jump scare is coming is the sensation you experience through the entire second half of the movie. It’s as if the movie is holding its breath and you’re just watching… petrified and paralyzed… the entire time.

This is the kind of horror that stays with you. The concept is a little too fresh and realistic, which is why it resonates so well with our current culture. It’s an eerily on the nose commentary regarding Gen Z and their obsession with clout, but transforms into a deeper drama with respect to bigger themes. In an age where everyone wants to go viral and post online, it’s no surprise that possession becomes a party trick that people capitalize off of for views. It’s also pretty raw in its exploration of grief. It deals with a lot of heavy material and poses a lot of questions regarding the divide between life and death. This movie is not a heartwarming watch. Do not head to the theater expecting to watch a fun dumb slasher where kids run around in their underwear from a guy with a knife. Talk To Me is brutal. The drama bleeds out of the screen and infects you. It’s transcendent in a way, which may sound cheesy and unbelievable, but there are few people who’ve seen this movie who would disagree. There is a scene in this movie where the entire story bluntly turns and suddenly we’re firing ahead in overdrive and there isn’t a single moment to even breathe or ask What just happened?

The horror of this movie lies in the reality, the relatability, the way we can see ourselves in place of these characters. There are rare moments when you remember you’re sitting in a theater watching a movie because for most of the runtime you are completely invested in their world. The ending of this movie will stay with me forever. It’s smart, it’s unfair, it’s one of those horror movie endings that leave you hopeless and frightened of death and that’s the whole point. The way the writers wrap up everyone’s story stays true to the themes and message of the film. There are no cheap loopholes the protagonists discover in the third act that fix everything for everyone, there’s no rhyme, reason or backstory as to why the hand does what it does and there’s no neatly tied bow in the final scene to send us all off with a smile and a pat on the back. The ending of Talk To Me is gruesomely real, tragic and will stay with me forever.

There’s one very explicit scene in this movie that has to do with a little girl (when you see her… prepare yourself!) that was supposed to be minutes longer than it was in the final cut. Whoever’s choice it was to cut that down, you are my hero! Because even the brief fifteen seconds was enough to traumatize me forever. Viewers will most likely hate protagonist Mia, played by Sophie Wilde, who did exactly what she was supposed to do and performed so well. Mia is selfish and immature and irresponsible, which is what gives us the entire movie, but it’s really easy to hate her. I love the reality of Jade’s sibling relationship with Riley. I thought that was explored extremely well and realistically and Jade actually ended up being one of my favorites by the end.

The Philippou brothers leave a lot of the movie up for interpretation because a lot of what they show us is metaphorical or symbolic. The hand can represent many things, whether it's addiction or whether it's a vessel to escape grief or whether it's a golden hen for people wanting to go viral online… there’s so much this embalmed hand can be a metaphor for that I feel the Philippou brothers didn’t want to close any doors on the creative avenues it could be perceived through.

They also don’t give us a definitive answer on the motivations of the spirits in this movie, like what it is they want exactly. We have a good idea of who they want based off what happens, but the why is never really explained. Ultimately, this is still one of those horror movies where you might scream “Don’t open the door!” but this time it’s “Don’t touch that hand!” Yet Mia’s motivation and her quest for the truth about her mother is what really sets things in motion and feeds us all the juiciest bits. Talk To Me feels like more of a drama than horror at times mostly because it doesn’t follow the typical model even if the premise feels a little familiar. It’s fresh, doesn’t circle around itself in a box locked by tropes of the genre and feels free and unpredictable… like it can lunge out into any direction without warning, which is the exciting part about horror that fans have gone a really long time not seeing on screen. Every horror movie these days is a cookie cutter structure, following the same set of rules and regulations so neatly that they all become annoyingly predictable. Talk To Me throws all of that out the window and becomes a freight train that flies off the rails and becomes impossible to predict or even know what to believe while you’re watching it. Do we trust the spirits we see? Are they real? What’s really happening? Is this an illusion? Can anyone be saved? Does the bulldog have feelings for Daniel? What’s going on?

The truth is, we’ll never really know. But there is definitely a lesson to be learned here. Stick to king’s cup or beer pong for even Uno your party games and leave your embalmed hands at home.


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