Talk to Me

The supremely scary Talk to Me opens with two shocking acts of violence that let you know you’ll need to brace yourself over the next 90 minutes. Directors Danny and Michael Philippou make a dazzling debut with this story about a ceramic hand. Supposedly, an actual human hand is inside it, one previously belonging to a medium. Now the hand is passed around, where young people post videos of themselves demonstrating its power.

The rules are easy to grasp: somebody holds the hand, says the words “talk to me,” and instantly witnesses a demon or spirit. If that person gives permission, the supernatural visitor will inhabit their body, causing creepy mayhem to occur. The only catch is that if the voluntary possession lasts longer than 90 seconds, the demon won’t want to leave. In a shrewd act of storytelling, the Philippou siblings use their concept to depict how teens can goad each other into doing stupid things in the name of fun.

Mia (Sophie Wilde) tries the hand at a party. This teenage girl has recently lost her mother to an accidental overdose. Now she’s a surrogate family member to best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), her younger brother Riley (Joe Bird), and their mom Sue (Miranda Otto). Mia gets a weird high from the experience, as do the other adolescents who take a shot. Riley wants to try, as well. That’s when things go very, very wrong in ways I will not divulge.

Talk to Me made me think of William Friedkin’s horror classic The Exorcist. Both films contain disturbingly freaky images yet ground them with three-dimensional characters and an emotional story. Mia believes the hand can be a gateway to communicating with her late mother. Her grief and quest for answers fuels the drama, and since she lets Riley try the game, a burden falls on her when all hell breaks loose. Sophie Wilde is outstanding in the lead role. Because of her, we care deeply about Mia, so the bloodcurdling plot occurrences are far more than generic scare beats. They’re true life-and-death scenarios.

Your eyes are not prepared for what they’ll see in Talk to Me. The movie’s scariest scenes show sights that cause you to squirm, gasp, and/or recoil. Every single one is necessary to convey the significance of Mia’s dilemma. A major part of what makes the movie chilling is that it refuses to deliver the same old stuff we see in many horror films. The Philippous have new forms of visual terror to put in our heads. What they come up with does the trick.

Talk to Me builds to a final minute that ends the story hauntingly. When the movie cuts to black, the implication of the last two shots sends a chill down your spine. It’s always exciting to get a horror film this smart, artfully made, and downright twisted.

out of four

Talk to Me is rated R for strong/bloody, some sexual material, and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.