Directed by: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou
Written by: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson
Starring: Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes
Released: July 27, 2023
Grade: A-

Talk to Me

South Australian-born brothers Danny and Michael Philippou have been making movies since they were pre-teens and in 2013, they found fame after launching a YouTube channel specialising in comedy, horror, and wacky stunts.  The channel currently has over 6 million followers and the videos have a combined viewing total exceeding 1 billion.

Inspired by an idea from Bluey creator Daley Pearson (who gets a screenwriting credit), Talk to Me is their first feature film and marks their leap into the movie industry.  It’s a low-budget horror-thriller filmed in Australia with a local cast and crew… but it has the potential to reach a worldwide audience.  In the same vein as the 2014 sleeper hit The Babadook, a film where both brothers served as production runners and lighting assistants, Talk to Me received great buzz out of the Sundance Film Festival and is being released broadly across the United States and Canada (more than 2,000 screens!).

The story is quite cool.  A group of teenagers have come into possession of a mysterious embalmed hand.  When you touch it and say the words “talk to me”, you are mentally teleported into the afterlife and connected with a single deceased individual.  The kids treat is as a party trick.  They get together at someone’s house and take turns grabbing the hand while friends humorously/naively film the experience on their smartphones.  You need to be careful not to hold on to the hand too long or else…

This film gets a lot of the little things right.  It doesn’t muck around with a time-wasting introduction where the teenagers discover the hand and can’t believe its existence.  It’s as if we’re entering the narrative at the start of the second act (big thumbs up) and that helps keep the running time to a tight 95 minutes.  As the most notable member of the cast, Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings) plays a mother – a humorous, no-nonsense, terrifically written character who easily sees through her children’s sneaky white lies.

There are deeper subplots involving the “users” and the people they seek to contact in the afterlife but, in avoiding spoilers, I’ll allow audiences to discover those details for themselves.  From the make-up… to the casting… to the camera movements, the Philippou brothers have crafted a movie which is both interesting and scary.  It’s nice to see a character-driven horror flick which doesn’t rely largely on gimmicky jolts and frights.

I’ve a few qualms about the finale (the ending doesn’t quite stick) but Talk to Me deserves to find an audience.