Talk to Me review: scary party-game horror from A24
“Discuss to Me has an outstanding first hour, a tingling escalation that pays off with a set-piece for the ages.”
- An ideal party-trick premise
- A terrific younger forged
- One really terrifying sequence
- Some clunky plotting
- Peaks within the center
- “It is actually about grief”
The monkey’s paw is so final century. Discuss to Me, a freaky blast of city legend for the age of social media and smartphones, introduces a brand new cursed object of phalangeal horror. It’s a hand, severed and embalmed and encased in ceramic, that acts as a direct conduit to the world of the useless. Greedy and addressing its digits (the phrases of the movie’s title are the mandatory incantation) summons a specter from the opposite facet. 4 extra phrases, “I allow you to in,” grant consent for possession. For nevertheless lengthy the handshake holds, your physique stays beneath the management of the visiting spirit, benevolent or much less so.
The premise is pure campfire hokum, however there’s a fiendishly intelligent twist to it: Fairly than method the ability of that creepy hand with nothing however worry or hushed curiosity, the Australian suburban youngsters of this A24 fright-fest flip it into a celebration trick. Gathering in basements on Friday nights, the children take turns communing and trifling with the useless; they convulse right into a marionette state, their voices commandeered for a beyond-the-grave ventriloquist act, as their classmates bellow with laughter and movie the entire thing. They don’t want an exorcist. They want a chaperone or a stricter curfew.
For Mia (Sophie Wilde), the draw of the sport is deeper than a wild out-of-body expertise. She’s nonetheless grieving the demise of her mom, who lately overdosed on sleeping drugs — perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not. Might the hand be a technique to attain her? Feeling disconnected from her father (Marcus Johnson), Mia spends most of her time hanging with longtime pal Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade’s preteen brother, Riley (Joe Chook), who appears equally spooked and intrigued by the blithe conjurings the older children are turning into viral content material.
The movie’s administrators, Aussie twins Danny and Michael Philippou, rigorously set up this surrogate-family dynamic, discovering affection (there’s an awesome smash reduce to a Sia singalong that instantly conveys Mia and Riley’s shut bond) but in addition buried tensions, just like the whisper of jealousy that has come between the ladies since Jade began courting Daniel (Otis Dhanji), the painfully chaste Christian boy Mia referred to as sweetheart in center faculty. The Philippou brothers made a reputation for themselves with the horror-comedy of their YouTube channel, RackaRacka. Their internet-celeb goofiness seeps productively into the high-school hangout scenes of their characteristic debut. If nothing else, the 2 have a finger on the heart beat of a era residing life by means of the oblong body of a display screen.
However Discuss to Me is not any didactic lecture about children nowadays. The movie faucets into one thing extra timeless: the video games of hen, gentle and harmful, the younger have all the time performed with mortality. The hand is sort of a extra excessive model of the blackout problem (a.okay.a. the fainting recreation), that adolescent double-dare pastime of asphyxiation for the sake of euphoria. It additionally turns into a funhouse mirror of strange teenage experimentation with medication: What are the children doing in that basement however discovering an outlandish technique to chase sensation and turn into another person for a short while? “While you’re younger, you’re immortal, or so that you assume,” a poet of rock ‘n’ roll once said.
It in all probability goes with out saying that Discuss to Me will ultimately make the specter of demise rather more instant for these children, tilting out of carefree transgression and into dire consequence; the expertly calibrated jolt of the chilly open, a earlier social gathering gone mistaken, tells us that from the beginning. However understanding the shoe goes to drop doesn’t make its touchdown any much less stunning. The centerpiece sequence of the film is harrowingly intense — an outburst of violence that remembers, in its ugly mutilation and insanity, the ending of Stephen King’s unforgettable quick story “The Jaunt.” The scene sends an electrical present of hazard by means of the film, destroying any sense of safety. How a lot horror, you surprise, remains to be on the way in which?
Possibly not fairly sufficient, because it seems. Discuss to Me has an outstanding first hour, a tingling escalation that pays off with a set piece for the ages. However from there it settles into one thing somewhat extra typical and rather a lot much less convincing. A part of the issue is that the script by Danny and Invoice Hinzman begins fudging the ooky-spooky logistics, permitting the hostile spirits to seem at will, impersonate family members, and create misleading hallucinations — a skillset that proves extra narratively handy than notably scary. There’s additionally the way in which Discuss to Me will get hopelessly hung up on Mia’s unprocessed emotions about her mom. That ingredient by no means stops trying insert-trauma-here perfunctory, perhaps as a result of it’s quick calcified into cliché for horror motion pictures beneath the A24 umbrella.
The movie is at its greatest earlier, in that basement, teetering together with its characters on the knife’s edge between scared and amused. Every time they invite the ghosts in, the film shudders with potential. Who will step by means of the door and into their pores and skin this time? The younger actors, particularly the beamingly emotive Wilde, embrace the role-playing alternative. If Discuss to Me doesn’t peak with its huge second of bloody terror, it does so with a giddy social gathering montage that makes ghostly possession appear to be a recreation of musical chairs. Right here, the film actually communicates what it’s about: dancing with the reaper earlier than, to paraphrase one other ’70s rock sage, you’ve realized to worry him.
Discuss to Me opens in choose theaters on Friday, July 28. For extra of A.A. Dowd’s writing, please go to his Authory page.