It’s very rare to witness someone who started on YouTube end up directing an A24 horror movie. What makes Talk To Me even more interesting is that it’s based on a short comedy premise written by Bluey‘s executive producer, Daley Pearson. Given the Philippou brothers’ history as comedic VFX content creators and the success of Bluey as a children’s show, is it enough to make a successful horror story?
Talk to Me is a film that combines grief with supernatural horror storytelling; during the anniversary of her mother’s death, Mia (portrayed by Sophie Wilde) attends a party with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), and brother Riley (Joe Bird). The party is known for using an embalmed hand as a paranormal connection to the dead, and those who hold it can communicate with spirits, but the connection must be severed within a specific duration.
What makes Talk to Me fascinating is that it was written and directed by two YouTubers. However, unlike the current trend where the film aligns with their brand, the Philippous utilize the lessons they learned as online content creators to bring the story to life. At the same time, it’s no secret that they took some risks during production, as this doesn’t feel like your average Hollywood horror.
Australian stories often go under appreciated, with only a handful finding international success. The use of Australian accents and vernacular gives Talk to Me its charm, making the storytelling feel authentic. Unlike other projects that have bee set in Sydney because of “familiarity,” Talk to Me is set in a random South Australian neighborhood. Finally, other states are slowly getting the limelight.
Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman have done an amazing job transforming the original premise into something that gets your heart racing. The film manages to connect to past events in earlier scenes and comes full circle. You have to pay attention, though, since it scatters hints about the plot at the start, and the callbacks to those moments provide a satisfying feeling.
While Talk to Me is a supernatural horror, it also has some comedic moments. That’s expected, considering the Philippou siblings’ background as online comedians. Some scenes had people in the theater laughing (including myself). I’ve never watched a horror movie where the source of the problems is treated like a party game. Yet, it highlights something that we see in real life, with people using Ouija boards and other means of spiritual communication for fun. However, there is one possession scene intended for comedic effect that feels uncomfortable to watch.
All the cast members do a phenomenal job, most specifically Bird’s portrayal of Riley. This kid starts as weak and innocent, only to become this horrifying being that you not only want to save but also consider killing due to the mistakes made by your friends. You feel bad for this person, and he becomes the perfect catalyst to get the ball rolling.
Meanwhile, Wilde is such an amazing actress able to pull off some emotional, yet suspenseful scenes. You want to empathize with her, yet you don’t know if she’s worth trusting. Lastly, while we barely see The Lord of the Rings star Miranda Otto onscreen, she did help elevate the comedic moments, whilst also doing a good job on playing the “clueless victim” who has zero idea on what really happened to her children.
As someone who grew up with RackaRacka‘s content, the VFX feels like an evolution of their previous work. There is a scene where Riley brutally self-harms due to the spirit lingering too long, and his friends scream and panic. That scene bears some resemblance to their origins, but with a higher production budget. It avoids using cheap effects that you’d see in their videos or other low-budget indie projects, goig the extra mile to make it not only realistic, but also very grueling.
These guys did not forgotten their roots as YouTubers, though, as they give their friend KSI a small cameo by using one of his videos. This is an interesting callback to their internet days, and a fun Easter Egg.
As someone who has watched multiple productions starring or produced by YouTubers and influencers, this one sets the bar even higher. This is not just some run-of-the-mill cash grab featuring RackaRacka characters. This is something that’s filled with love and passion, and it’s no wonder it was accepted into Sundance.
Talk To Me is more than just a horror film. It represents an accumulation of years of viral videos and memes, supported by a growing industry in Australia. It knows what type of story it is trying to tell and ensures it doesn’t fall into clichés. This film is definitely a must-watch, especially if you want to support the nation’s growing Australian industry through unique storytelling.
‘Talk to Me’ is an aculmination of years worth viral content creation, mixed in with Australian storytelling. Together, it transformed a comedic short premise into something that gets your heart racing.