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'Talk to Me' Is the Year's Most Disturbing Horror Movie

By Dustin Rowles | Film | July 31, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | July 31, 2023 |


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A24’s Talk to Me does something wickedly smart with its marketing: The promos position it as something akin to a horror flick with an edge, like Bodies, Bodies, Bodies or Smile, each the kind of movie the typical horror viewer will run out to see. Despite the teen party atmosphere of the trailer, however, Talk to Me is the most disturbing horror film I have seen since Hereditary, a movie with which it shares some thematic similarities. In fact, about three-quarters through my screening, a buff dude of about 20 walked out during a particularly vicious scene, and there were more than a few unsuspecting moviegoers during my sold-out screening repeatedly and involuntarily exclaiming “What the f**k” (I apologize to my fellow moviegoers).

Talk to Me is dark, unsettling, and fantastic, and while it may live in the shadow of Barbenheimer, it’s poised after a $10 million opening to become the quiet sleeper hit of the summer based on word of mouth, even if the words bound to come out of many mouths will be, “Holy shit. That movie was f*cked up.”

The film grabs our attention in the opening scenes. Here, a disturbed teenager is walking through a party. Everyone takes out their phones and starts recording videos. The disturbed teen’s brother pleads with the partygoers to put away their phones, but while he’s doing so, the disturbed teen stabs his brother in the back and quickly plunges the knife through his own skull. That’s the first five minutes.

Talk to Me then jumps to a different set of characters: Mia (Sophie Wilde), a teenager who recently lost her mom under mysterious circumstances; her best friend, Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade’s little brother, Riley (Joe Bird), and Jade and Riley’s loving-but-overbearing mom, Sue (played to perfection by Miranda Otto). The three teens sneak out to attend a party where Joss (Chris Alosio) and Hayley (Zoe Terakes) have a stone hand that allows anyone who holds it and says “talk to me” to see really f**ked up dead people. Hold on to the hand too long, however, and things get nasty.

It’s not the most original of concepts — teenagers open a book, or box, or play a game that they know they shouldn’t — but directors Danny and Michael Philippou take a turn into some deeply unsettling places. I don’t want to say much else beyond that it’s a meditation on grief and, like Hereditary, about the lengths people will go to process it.

Also, it’s an Australian movie, and if you can’t handle the disquieting suffering of a dying kangaroo that’s been hit by a car, do not watch Talk to Me. If Hereditary is too much for you, do not watch Talk to Me. If Eric Stoltz in Mask is too much for you, do not watch Talk to Me. If body horror, or Zelda in Pet Sematary is too much for you, do not watch Talk to Me. If the characters in Trash Humpers are too disturbing for you, do not watch Talk to Me.

But also understand that all of the reasons you might not want to watch Talk to Me are what make Talk to Me so appealing to a lot of horror fans. It’s like painfully spicy food; it hurts in places you didn’t know you could feel, but the reward is worth the pain.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, ‘Talk to Me’ wouldn’t exist.