Review: Australia’s ‘Talk to Me’ is the Best Horror Film of 2023 So Far |

Review: Australia’s ‘Talk to Me’ is the Best Horror Film of 2023 So Far

by Manuel São Bento
August 7, 2023

As usual every year, 2023 began with the Sundance Film Festival. It’s always a unique experience, especially when compared to other festivals, as most movies don’t even have distribution deals arranged yet, let alone any kind of marketing campaign or online hype. It’s an invigorating opportunity to discover new directors, screenwriters, actors, and virtually anyone / everyone involved in making low-budget, original films. I felt that the line-up at this most recent edition of the festival wasn’t exactly as outstanding as in 2021 or 2022… perhaps because I missed the best horror movie of the year to date, Talk to Me, which played at Sundance in the Midnight category (after originally world premiering at the Adelaide Film Festival in late 2022).

Australian brothers Danny and Michael Philippou’s debut feature film was on my initial watchlist for the film festival, but I don’t remember why it was eventually removed. The premise of the brothers’ Talk to Me isn’t highly appealing or creative, as the story revolves around a well-known formulaic concept – human possession by supernatural spirits. The only positive takeaway from missing it during the festival (which I was covering digitally viewing from Europe) is that this way I was fortunate enough to watch one of the scariest movies in recent memory on the big screen upon its release in theaters this summer.

From now on, Talk to Me will be my go-to piece of evidence to support the idea that the horror genre is, by far, the one that benefits most from practical effects and real elements on set. It isn’t at all unreasonable to consider the makeup work in this horror feature as awards-worthy. Countless moments of supernatural-influenced violence – heads hitting walls & furniture, bones breaking, people biting themselves or others – induce that feeling of grotesque disgust precisely due to the realism of all the technical components. Apart from the eyes transforming into a terrifying black color, special effects are rare or non-existent in this film.

Audiences have already witnessed dozens or even hundreds of characters becoming possessed, so Talk to Me can hardly in this specific field. Even so, the execution of these possession moments keep viewers glued to the screen in such a vivid, intimate manner that many will try to look away unsuccessfully. The Philippou Brothers (also known as the YouTube creators “RackaRacka“) focus on the superb performances of the cast rather than cheap, repetitive jumpscares, a lesson that the biggest movies in the horror genre insist on never learning. Sophie Wilde stands out with an unforgettable display – the physical component becomes very important with her – but all the actors offer their bodies and souls completely to their characters.

Talk to Me Review

That said, no one will leave the cinema looking at life differently due to Danny Philippou & Bill Hinzman’s script. Talk to Me is one of these films that requires a theatrical experience due to the restless atmosphere generated by the filmmakers along with the mesmerizing performances. It’s an incredibly captivating flick from the first to the last second, that inevitably will appeal more to cinephiles who take particular pleasure in watching a horror movie in which all aspects of the filmmaking contribute tremendously to its success.

I must emphasize that Talk to Me is far from an easy watch for viewers that are more sensitive to violence. The brutality is extremely explicit and unpredictable, a crucial factor for situations of pure visual shock. Most of these sequences are long with several impactful moments rather than a single climax. From the first possession scene onwards, the film maintains a frenetic pace without many pauses to breathe, which brings me to the only real issue with the movie, besides the somewhat rushed final minutes.

Themes such as suicide, grief, depression, and loneliness are introduced by the narrative, but never really explored, which will lead to opinions about how Talk to Me exploits human suffering as a shock device for the sake of entertainment. Personally, I don’t believe this was the filmmakers’ intention, but the truth is that the characters don’t undergo any significant growth, ending the film practically the same way they started concerning these subjects. There’s very little dialogue surrounding any of these topics.

Nevertheless, Talk to Me’s conclusion won’t leave anyone indifferent, and the ending for the protagonist is nothing short of brilliant. It really gives a vibe of being one of those endings that is thought out and written before the rest of the movie due to how perfectly it fits its premise. The film is, without a doubt, a depressing story that will leave a profound impact on a good chunk of the audience that watches it, and I genuinely hope that it manages to provide these Australian brothers more opportunities to create whatever they want – because, for my part, they just turned me into a fan.

Note: A prequel is already complete, and a sequel is also planned. Bring them to me!

Final Thoughts

The Philippous’ Talk to Me lives up to the tremendous hype from festivals and initial reactions around the world. Without a doubt one of the scariest horror films in recent years! Impressive practical effects, superb makeup, hypnotizing performances – Sophie Wilde clearly stands out the most – and impeccable execution of truly shocking, gory, unpredictable moments of violence. It doesn’t have the most imaginative screenplay within the “spirit-possessed characters” subgenre and leaves some meaningful themes unexplored, but it’s definitely one of this year’s must-see horror flicks. Danny and Michael Philippou: remember their names.

Manuel’s Rating: A-
Follow Manuel on Twitter – @msbreviews / Or Letterboxd – @msbreviews


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Watch: Faceless Dark Comedy Horror Short ‘We Want Faces So Bad’

Watch: Faceless Dark Comedy Horror Short ‘We Want Faces So Bad’

October 28, 2022
Source: YouTube

“She realized what she really wanted, ever since she was a faceless little girl, was to belong.” Are you ready to finally get your face? Check out this fun horror short film titled We Want Faces So Bad, made by actor / filmmaker Matthew Van Gessel. This one recently played at the Fantasia Film Festival and is now online to watch thanks to Short of the Week. Alexx must ‘face’ the reality of her overnight transformation when she joins her faceless friends in their nightly manifesting faces ritual. It’s set entirely in one room and is a quick and easy watch. This stars Jasmine Kimiko, Cricket Brown, Meagan Kimberly Smith, and Rebecca Brinkley. This is a clever short about obsession with identity and vanity, and how we try to hide our faces. I wish there was a bit more to it, following these faceless girls outside of this evening. But still worth a watch.

We Want Faces So Bad Short Film

We Want Faces So Bad Short Film

Thanks to Short of the Week for the tip on this one. Synopsis from YouTube: “Alexx must ‘face’ the reality of her overnight transformation when she joins her faceless friends in their nightly manifesting ritual.” We Want Faces So Bad is directed by New York-based actor / filmmaker Matthew Van Gessel – you can see more of his acting work on his official site. The screenplay is written by Michael Calciano. Made by Apple House Pictures. Produced by Michael Calciano, Adam Conversano, Grant Conversano, Jasmine Kimiko, and Matthew Van Gessel. Featuring cinematography by Grant Conversano, and original music by Tanner Poff. This premiered at the New People Cinema Club 2021, and it also played at the 2022 Fantasia Film Festival. For more info on the film, visit SOTW or head to Vimeo. To discover more shorts, click here. Your thoughts?

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