I had never heard of the RackaRacka twins prior to the announcement of their feature film debut, the A24 produced horror film Talk To Me. During the heydays of YouTube shitposting and the lawless wasteland of outrageous videos, I must've never gravitated towards their channel. Most of my days were spent on the usual vices like CollegeHumor or The Whitest Kids You Know. Such uninspiring choices right?
Well now if there's any pressure to go back and check out their videos, it would be due to their exceptional debut film Talk To Me. This movie shook me to my core. Through its content and its quality, you are subjected to what I can only attribute as emotional destruction.
The movie centers on Mia (Sophie Wilde) who's grieving the recent loss of her mother. Avoiding her dad, Max (Marcus Johnson), she spends most of her time with her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade's younger brother Riley (Joe Bird), and the siblings' mom Sue (Miranda Otto). A nice exposition on Mia and Riley's close bond in the first act is a great emotional buildup that I was not prepared for. The Philippou Twins put just enough time and empathetic exchanges in between these two to make what transpires later in the film hurt even more.
As Mia grapples with the loss of her mother, especially on her remembrance day, there's a growing "trend" shall I say across the young peers at their school and surrounding area. Joss (Chris Alosio) holds numerous parties where he shows off this toy, a ceramic hand, that when grasped you say the words "talk to me." This causes a dead spirit to appear in front of you, to which you reply "I let you in" because of course why not? Following these simple instructions the spirit "possesses" the body of the host for as long as they're holding on to the hand, which should never exceed 90 seconds according to Hayley (Zoe Terakes). Not only does this experience provide a euphoric drug-like high to the host, but the wild actions of the spirits in these borrowed bodies are filmed on every kid's phone at the party and circulated much like any other viral video. Mia, seeing these videos, can't wait to try it, thinking it might help her think of things other than her mother.
The greatest aspect of the Philippou's introduction into the hand is the sensationalization of what is clearly something that shouldn't be taken with such levity. Contacting the dead and allowing them to possess your body, is subverted into a silly spin-the-bottle, low-stakes game at these parties. Recording all of the interactions and circulating the videos creates a belief that this is all fun and games, dramatizing a parallel to dangerous "TikTok trends" or "challenges" that kids make up. What makes matters even worse, for the viewer anyways, is that you're buying into it! Camera work, rapturous laughter, and needle drops hammer home the point that this is totally fun and ok nothing could possibly go wrong.
Which sets up for an emotional annihilation when Riley begs to join in, and against Jade's stern "No," Mia allows him a turn. As soon as Mia believes that her deceased mother is in fact the spirit that Riley has dialed up, she forces him to break the 90-second rule. The following sequence I watched with my hand over my mouth.
The brutality, combined with sound design and the aforementioned emotional attachment to Riley and Mia's relationship is a gut punch from hell. Set up perfectly, this scene is done so well that even if you were prepared for some explosion after this build-up, you're still going to be in awe/horrified by what you're watching.
And really, that's where Talk To Me thrives. While subversive and novel in its ways of commenting on social media consumption through the spread of this party trick, there's a lot that's just rehashed or an homage to prior horror. But that's totally fine! Even at its most predictable, Talk To Me is put together in a crisp, brutal package that you don't care that you saw it coming. The story loses steam in the third act and almost limps to the finish line, but at no point was I bored. Danny and Michael Philippou have a keen eye for pacing and when to land their punches.
Ultimately, the final five to ten minutes were not only satisfying in a kind of sadistic way but left me unable to get the movie out of my head.
If anything this is a perfect launchpad for the Philippou's future endeavors, and also I hope a welcome party for Sophie Wilde. Her portrayal of unending grief mixed with a hint of demonic possession was stellar. I would love to see more of her in the projects to come!
A heavy-hitting movie like this needs an equal heavy hitter to act as a sort of counterweight. What better choice for a film about chatting it up with dead spirits, who probably want you to do some nefarious shit, than Holy Mountain Brewing's Heavenless. This IPA is a whopping 7% and punches your taste buds right in the taste face. It has a strong bitterness to it but it is alleviated by the citrus flavors and aromas. With a bright color to make it easy on the eyes, this beverage has a thicker mouthfeel but is just as drinkable as any other lighter IPA.