Sundance 2023: 'Talk to Me' Should Be the Next Big Horror Breakout
by Alex Billington
January 29, 2023
This Australian indie horror film is one of the most fresh and exciting horror discoveries in a long time - put it on your watchlist right now. Don't even read this review or any others, go watch it when it opens without knowing anything more about it. Talk to Me is screening at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the iconic Midnight section (where classics like Saw and The Blair Witch Project and The Babadook and Hereditary and Cube all premiered years ago), though it originally premiered in Australia last year. Its initial unveiling was at the 2022 Adelaide Film Festival last October - this is its first appearance since. Despite not being a world premiere this time, it unquestionably deserves to be featured in Sundance's 2023 Midnight line-up - the horror highlight of the festival. A genuinely scary, entirely thrilling, well-made film that might be the big breakout of this year, with an epic franchise setup similar to Saw. I've been telling anyone that loves horror this is the must see of the festival, and I'll continue to spread the good word now that A24 has picked it up.
Talk to Me is co-directed by twin brother filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou, also known online as "RackaRacka", originally hailing from Adelaide (though they're now based in Los Angeles). They also run a YouTube channel but this is their feature debut and it's wild, mixing modern filmmaking sensibilities with classic horror scares. The film is about a group of Australian high schoolers who get obsessed with a freaky new séance experience. One of them has an embalmed hand they bring around, which is this special, strange artifact almost like a taxidermy animal - with a supernatural connection. When someone sits in front of the hand, lights candles, grabs it and says some "magic" words - it allows them to temporarily interact with the "other side" and briefly become possessed. It's instantly all the rage - everyone has to try it, the high school trend that no one can tell their parents, that only the brave will try. Of course, they take it too far, and not only do some of them get sucked into the world of the dead, but it starts to rip apart their friendships and cause real world problems for each of them. But this is their lesson to learn, it's the story the film is telling.
It's clear that Danny and Michael were not only inspired by Hereditary, but they were also inspired by other indie paranormal horror classics like Insidious. The film features numerous shock horror moments that are handled with spunk, a few horrifying scenes of gore similar to Ari Aster's films, and psychological terror that will leave you questioning your own state of mind. I was consistently impressed by the overall quality of the filmmaking and the unexpected storytelling decisions, following the lead character Mia (played by Sophie Wilde) as she slowly begins to lose her mind after a frightening experience with "the hand" one night. I also fully expect this hand to become the new ouija board. It's a gimmick, of course, but it's an eerily appealing and perfectly executed horror film gimmick. Plus the way it clverly sets up a horror franchise is ingenious - I even have ideas about what they should do next and how it could continue on. Talk to Me should be the next big horror breakout from Sundance 2023. Whenever it's out in theaters (or at home), grab a bunch of your friends, bring some candles, turn off the lights and enjoy. Just don't dive into deep end of the supernatural.
Alex's Sundance 2023 Rating: 8 out of 10
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