Another new day, another huge win for the fistbumpers and also for those who generally don't wish to invite supernatural forces inside simply because they don't want to be traumatised for life. Directing duo Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou make a jump from the top rope of YouTube onto breakable tables of feature filmmaking with their supernatural horror effort Talk To Me, drawing from a concept by Daley Pearson in the process. Set in suburbs of Adelaide, 17-year-old Mia (Sophie Wilde) is spending an anniversary of her mom Rhea's (Alexandria Steffensen) death by suicide at a house party with best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade's brother Riley (Joe Bird). Whilst there and over the next few days, the group, which also includes Hayley (Zoe Terakes), Joss (Chris Alosio) and Jade's boyfriend Daniel (Otis Dhanji), experiments with a mysterious severed hand that possesses them and is in touch with spirits.
Considering that this is a horror and the aforementioned powerful object certainly seems shady, it's not much of a surprise that the experiments go horribly wrong for Mia and others, notably when one of the spirits seems to be channelling Rhea whose death is still rattling Mia. In that regard, Philippous prove to be rather tenacious and crafty technicians and captains as they build strong visual language with DoP Aaron McLisky, as well as effective horror sequences that utilise practical elements, in addition to developing a great sense of tension throughout. A big part of that tension also translates because the acting is great across the board—led by Wilde who is able to balance Mia's shifts, melancholy and finally a relinquishment of control with precision. Wilde receives solid support from Bird who is terrific in the possession scenes and the two of them really sell the fright and anguish of their characters.
The directors' tight grip on the overall mood and Wilde's technique become more crucial because the filmmakers still have some growing to do when it comes to writing and thematic heft. Co-writers Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman's script already faces an uphill battle with its rather basic characters whose arcs also make things harder since the themes about grief and unresolved emotions keep repeating the same point over and over again. Wilde impressively finds new ways to express them with her face acting and horror jolts occasionally take us out of the murky waters, but the flawed motivations, supernatural occurrences and love triangles do sometimes turn the picture into something pretty incoherent. Philippous' fresh, social media-era style uses the teens-getting-in-trouble trope in a way that announces their talents and it also helps to have the sequel built into the title already. Now we just wait if the characters and stories grow alongside them.
Smileys: Sophie Wilde, directing
Frowneys: Minor issues with characterisation and screenplay
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