Talk to Me has the eerie essence of a Twilight Zone episode. That said, this setup probably could’ve worked just as well – if not a little better – with a half-hour runtime. That extra hour isn’t unwelcome, however. Danny and Michael Philippou, or RackaRacka as they’re known on YouTube, have made a slick debut feature with chilling practical effects and utterly convincing performances. It’s appropriate that the brothers started as YouTubers, as one could imagine Talk to Me’s premise inspiring plenty of TikTok videos. Are you bold enough to accept the #TalkToMeChallenge?
The plot revolves around a mysterious hand sculpture that becomes the deadliest party game since flatlining. By firmly grasping the hand and saying the magic words, the user invites a spirit to inhabit their body. It’s the ultimate thrill, but if someone else isn’t around to yank the hand away after a minute, you’re gonna have a bad time. The metaphor for drug use may be on the nose, but that doesn’t make the execution any less effective. The spirits on the other side of the hand are bloodcurdling creatures with makeup effects worthy of comparison to Rick Baker. The only thing more grotesque than the spirits is the aftermath of holding the hand too long.
One young teen inevitably gets hooked on the hand, leading to an accident that’s cringey in all the right ways. The Philippou brothers’ background as special effects artists is on full display. Not only can the audience feel every distorting blow, but the bone-crunching sound design will have your eardrums quivering in fear. Talk to Me isn’t purely an exercise in gore. There’s a phycological element to the story as one character seemingly makes contact with a late loved one. It isn’t long until this spirit gets inside their head, leaving even the audience to wonder what’s real.
Talk to Me admittedly could’ve gone a step further with the phycological angle. There’s a moment during the third act where a character is presented with an impossible decision, unsure who to trust anymore. Shortly after this dilemma is introduced, though, it’s revealed to the audience who’s lying. The film could’ve afforded to keep us in the dark longer, making the audience feel as conflicted as its protagonist. While this sucks out some of the dread, the climax is still a nail-biter, leading to a somewhat obvious resolution, yet a clever one nonetheless.
The performances are universally excellent, particularly Sophie Wilde as the curious Mia. Miranda Otto also delivers some of her best work as a mother watching what’s left of her son slip away. Almost 20 years after crossing paths with the One Ring, Otto must combat another evil object with addictive powers. The filmmakers refreshingly don’t delve into where the hand originally came from. If Talk to Me sparks a franchise, hopefully they keep the mystery surrounding the hand intact. Either way, the hand has the makings of an instant horror icon. Come October, don’t be surprised to find a replica of the hand at a Halloween party next to a life-sized M3GAN doll. Just don’t grab the hand, unless you can handle the #TalkToMeChallenge.