Talk to Me (Movie Review)
Blending humor, tension, and brutal body horror with a deeper exploration of grief and death, Danny and Michael Phillippou’s Talk to Me is another incredible entry into the plethora of horror to emerge from Sundance Film Festival in recent years. Photos courtesy A24.
Something many might not know about me, as this has historically been a music site, is: I am a huge horror movie fanatic. And if there’s one specific trope I’m always a sucker for in a horror film, it’s themes of grief and trauma.
It’s not a cheery subject, and it’s a difficult one to deal with. But I think that’s what makes horror the perfect vehicle to explore it. Death is something that scares and confounds us. Whether it’s touched our lives or not, the unknown valley of the end of our lives is a terrifying prospect. Where do we go, what happens when the lights go out? And for those whose lives have been touched by the death of a loved one: are they really gone?
It’s the mystery of all mysteries, and one we will never have the answer to until our time is up. But what if you were able to reach out to death itself, to brush the border and peer inside? What if you were able to talk to Death and see all the answers?
That’s the idea that circles the new horror film, Talk to Me, a sharp directorial debut from YouTubers Danny and Michael Phillippou. After premiering at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the hype was enough for indie legends A24 to pick it up for distribution, unleashing it for wide release on July 28.
Rattled by the death of her mother, Mia (played by Sophie Wilde) is brought to the cusp of death itself through a seance party game, where their group of friends uses a mysterious embalmed hand to conjure spirits and commune with the dead. The seance scenes themselves are incredibly envisioned, blending party humor with the terrifying imagery of Evil Dead’s deadites all into one horrific vehicle.
But it’s the effect of these seances and the road it leads Mia down that is the shining star of this film. By allowing her to let Death itself in and confront it head on, this seance game becomes something of a coping mechanism for Mia, and—at least at first—the experience is one of beauty.
Able to confront her fear of the unknown of death, to see everything and feel everything in a time of grief that often feels so disconnecting, Mia is drawn to continue her communing, craving the feeling and comfort that this brush with death’s hand seems to bring. But like Icarus flying too close to the sun, Mia soon finds out that some things are better left unknown, and that Death can be let in too far, too soon.
Through its potent 90 minute runtime, Talk to Me plays its cards well, blending its deeper themes with humor, tension, and brutal body horror all at once. It’s certain to be a crowd-pleaser in theaters, and surely will be a rattling experience at home, alone, with all the lights turned out.
Get tickets now for Talk to Me, in theaters everywhere July 28.
Bren Swogger (they/them) is the creator and editor of Indie/Alt Magazine. Bren started Indie/Alt as a music blog during their sophomore year of high school, and after a long hiatus, relaunched it as an online entertainment magazine in 2021 for their capstone project at Pacific University. After 10 years in the music journalism industry, Bren has a long-standing passion for live music, but also loves to explore their passion for other artistic outlets. You can find Bren writing voraciously, adding to their never-ending stack of TBRs, and marathoning classic horror films.