Tough 'Talk'

'Talk to Me' a flawed but interesting concept

Mia (Sophie Wilde) gets more than she bargained for in Danny and Michael Phillipou's debut horror film 'Talk to Me.' [Courtesy image | A24 Films]

By Carter Salley
Special to CM Life

"Talk To Me" is an interesting take on the cliched message of "drugs are bad." It uses the concepts introduced in the film well but falls short when introducing too many ideas in the last half of the movie and it starts to become a jumbled mess toward the end. 

I feel like the film rushed the ending and it left me unsatisfied, but maybe that's the point? Allow me to go in-depth. 

First of all, major trigger warning: For those who are sensitive to the topics of suicide, depression, loss, grief, drug addiction, masochism and torture, this is not the movie for you. 

"Talk To Me" follows a high schooler by the name of Mia, played by Sophia Wilde ("You Don't Know Me"). She and her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen, "Frayed") and her brother Riley (Joe Bird, "Rabbit"), attend a high school party. 

Things go awry when a ceramic hand, rumored to be used to communicate with the dead, falls into the hands of a bunch of rowdy teenagers who want to use it as a means of getting high. The rumor is that you are supposed to grab the hand and say "talk to me." Then your soul is invited to another world while the body is drugged into a vegetable-like state and used as a medium for spirits from beyond. 

As soon as Mia volunteers to touch the hand, all hell breaks loose.  

This movie is a mixed bag. 

On the one hand (pun intended), it does a good job of using metaphor as a way of teaching youths the dangers of doing drugs and the effect they can have on you. On the other hand, the movie completely switches plots from drugs to grieving and guilt, and even some messages of how suicide affects those around you. 

This is a very grim and dark movie with no happy endings. It's alright to have these types of films, as long as the characters are well-written, and have clear goals in mind. Too bad this isn't it! 

Every. Single. Character. in this film is insufferable, to the point where I was so annoyed I felt like walking out. Specifically challenging were lead Mia and one of the side characters Haley, played by Zoe Terkares. 

The acting was good, but the writing for these two and their motivations gave me a headache. Mia, though she has a compelling backstory, is shown to not care for anyone around her except for her mother (you find out what happens to her later in the movie). 

At several points throughout the movie, Mia is offered a shot at redemption by doing the right thing, and chooses not to do it. At several points in the movie, Mia choses to do some of the stupidest actions possible. 

Haley was just a crappy human being who enjoys the misery of others; I just didn't care for her character. She just disappears after hurting others and doesn't get what she deserves at the end. 

I felt like the writers took pleasure in torturing some of these characters, especially Riley who deserved nothing that was coming to him. The whole movie made me feel empty, and I gave up caring about the characters because I knew they weren't worth rooting for. 

The movie also ends abruptly, which had me confused. Why build these characters up when your just going to use the last 30 minutes to give only one character a conclusion? I felt like time was wasted developing characters that didn't need it. In turn, they could have used that runtime to develop the main character Mia, and allow me to understand her better. 

Alright, time for some positives. The score is fantastic. The eerie scratches on the walls and the use of the digestive system as background noise made it feel like the movie itself was trying to possess you by using uncomfortable sounds to make your mind twist and your stomach churn. 

I also loved the design of every ghost that was shown. Each have a specific design that will make your skin crawl, especially the Ooze Women. The melting face made me jump!

The design for purgatory was straight out of a nightmare. The fire-tinted lighting mixed with the sounds of sloshing water and screaming souls drags you to the darkest crevices of your mind. They don't show much, but what they do show you is disturbing, mind-melting and makes you fear what comes next. Very well done to the special effect artists and the lighting crew: I only wish that there was more to say, because I wanted more!  

The directors for the movie,  first-time filmmakers Danny and Micheal Philippou, use the camera to their advantage. A lot of the shots in the movie are filmed on an angle, which makes for an interesting view. You can interpret it being that Mia's world is discombobulated: Everything she views is not exactly what it seems. 

Miranda Otto ("Sabrina and the Teenage Witch") was great as Jade's mom, and was the only good character in the film. I actually wanted to see more of her, but I also have a bias because she's a fantastic actress and one of my favorites! 

Overall, it's a solid movie, with a solid idea, but with poor character writing and a rushed ending. I would recommend seeing it at least once, but not to those who are currently grieving or who have lost someone close to them. Ironic that one of the messages of the film is working against them in their favor, huh? 

I'd give "Talk To Me" a 6.5/10.