Is this A24 horror film the scariest movie you’ll see this year?
TOP 5 THINGS ABOUT TALK TO ME
5. Embracing Setting
Writers-directors Danny and Michael Philippou have a distinctly twenty-first-century perspective.
Danny and Michael Philippou gained prominence through their successful YouTube channels, RackaRacka and Left on Red. In their feature film debut, Talk to Me, social media and technology play a crucial role in the unfolding horror. The film’s hyper-modern sensibility sets it apart from others in the genre, evident from its very opening shot.
While the horror genre often relies on gothic architecture and foggy landscapes of the past, modern-day suburban settings can sometimes feel disconnected from technology. Many films use technology as a mere plot device, creating gimmicky hurdles for the characters. However, Talk to Me integrates modern technology seamlessly into the narrative and visual storytelling, adding depth to the film.
Additionally, the Philippous’ decision to anchor the story in suburban Australia, complete with a kangaroo, gives the film a strong sense of place and time. By embracing this specificity, Talk to Me achieves a relatable and universal appeal that resonates with audiences.
4. The Exploration of Horror
Speaking of universality and relatability, Talk to Me‘s script, written by Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman, delves deeply into subconscious anxieties, fears, and terrors that mainly affect younger audiences.
As mentioned earlier, the Philippous skillfully integrate modern technology into the core of Talk to Me‘s story, allowing them to explore distinctly twenty-first-century horrors in a way that feels both invasive and cathartic.
The horror in Talk to Me revolves around anxieties of embarrassment, guilt, and the blurring of one’s internal world with the external. These fears are directly influenced and amplified by the social media-centric world we live in, especially for children who have grown up in this digital era over the past twenty years. The Philippous adeptly tap into these hyper-modern fears with precise execution. In doing so, Talk to Me stands alongside modern classics like Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade or Megan Park’s The Fallout in presenting a harrowingly accurate portrait of modern adolescence.
3. The Ending
I’m not sure I have seen a film this year with a more enthralling and ultimately satisfying series of final shots than Talk to Me.
It is such a powerful culmination that sees every narrative and thematic thread woven into a cohesive final symphony of subjective terror. It’s a mounting swell of tension and suspense that sees the Philippous gradually unveil their story’s true intention in an immensely enthralling form and builds to the unbelievable payoff of a single final line of dialogue.
2. Sophie Wilde as Mia
Talk to Me is a filmic story told from a subjective viewpoint. Except for the film’s cold opening, we see almost the entire story from the perspective of Mia, the protagonist played by Sophie Wilde.
Even when we’re not explicitly experiencing events from Mia’s point of view, the Philippous skillfully anchor the audience in her perception of events, resulting in an inspired narrative approach. This choice becomes even more hypnotic and compelling as the story unfolds, presenting a Herculean task for Wilde as a performer.
Fortunately, Wilde’s performance is flat-out phenomenal, and she convincingly portrays every aspect of her character arc with panache. Right from the beginning, Wilde adeptly endears Mia to the audience through her charisma and chemistry with her fellow performers while also conveying the character’s internal conflicts. This early establishment of Mia’s character becomes invaluable later on as Mia and Wilde are pushed to increasingly horrifying lengths. Despite the tumultuous journey Mia goes through, Sophie Wilde keeps us deeply connected to her emotions and intentions every step of the way.
1. The Direction
From the opening shot of Talk to Me, it becomes clear that the Philippous have delivered a concentrated vision of terror, knowing exactly what they want to convey.
The initial shot of the movie is a sustained oner, lasting a couple of minutes, showcasing immense technical prowess. However, more importantly, it sets up the tone, themes, and stakes of the film succinctly and impactfully.
Furthermore, throughout the film, the Philippous and cinematographer Aaron McLisky hone in on a visual language that blends classically cinematic horror vernacular (with whip-tilts and Dutch angles reminiscent of Sam Raimi films) and a more subjective, shallow-focused experiential presentation. This mix works wonders, especially in the converging setpieces, where the Philippous and editor Geoff Lamb masterfully tighten the screws of suspense and tension to gleefully vicious effect. The impeccable sound design complements these scenes exquisitely, adding to the overall unsettling experience.
Talk to Me is a phenomenal work of modern horror. Like the Daniels before them (the Academy Award-winning writer-directors behind Swiss Army Man and Everything Everywhere All at Once), the Philippous found solace in A24’s distribution methodology. They were able to deliver a debut feature film that feels like a culmination of all of their prior works.
Talk to Me is a film tailor-made to tap into the fears and anxieties of an entire generation.