Talk to Me (2022 film)

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Talk to Me
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Danny Philippou
  • Bill Hinzman
Based onConcept
by Daley Pearson
Produced by
  • Samantha Jennings
  • Kristina Ceyton
Starring
CinematographyAaron McLisky
Edited byGeoff Lamb
Music byCornel Wilczek
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 30 October 2022 (2022-10-30) (Adelaide)
  • 27 July 2023 (2023-07-27) (Australia)
Running time
95 minutes[1]
CountryAustralia
LanguageEnglish
Budget$4.5 million
Box office$92 million

Talk to Me is a 2022 Australian supernatural horror film directed by Danny and Michael Philippou, written by Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman, and based on a concept by Daley Pearson. It stars Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Miranda Otto, and Zoe Terakes. The film follows a group of teenagers who discover they are able to contact spirits using a mysterious severed and embalmed hand.

Talk to Me premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival on 30 October 2022, and was released by Maslow Entertainment, Umbrella Entertainment, and Ahi Films in Australia on 27 July 2023. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its story, direction, horror sequences, practical effects, sound design and performances, with Wilde and Bird receiving particular praise. It was a box office success, grossing approximately $91.9 million[2][3] worldwide against a $4.5 million budget,[4][5] becoming American distributor A24's highest-grossing horror film and second highest-grossing film overall.[6] A sequel is currently in development.

Plot[edit]

At a house party in Adelaide, Cole searches for his brother Duckett. When he finds Duckett and attempts to bring him home, Duckett stabs Cole and kills himself.

Some time later, 17-year-old Mia is struggling with the second anniversary of her mother Rhea's suicide by sleeping pill overdose and her distant relationship with her father Max. Mia, her best friend Jade, and Jade's little brother Riley sneak out to a gathering hosted by Hayley and Joss, where the main attraction is a severed and embalmed hand. Holding the hand and saying "talk to me" enables someone to communicate with a deceased person's spirit, while saying "I let you in" allows the spirit to possess them. In order to prevent spirits from binding themselves to that person, someone else must end the possession before 90 seconds by pulling away the embalmed hand and blowing out a candle to cut the connection. Mia volunteers to go first and is possessed by a spirit that displays a menacing focus on Riley. Joss and Hayley struggle to break the connection and the time limit is slightly exceeded.

Ecstatic over the experience, Mia joins Hayley, Joss, and Jade's boyfriend Daniel at Jade's house the next night. Jade refuses to let Riley participate, but all of the others indulge. When Jade leaves the room, Riley insists and Mia lets him take a turn for 50 seconds. Riley appears to be possessed by the spirit of Rhea, who attempts to reconcile with Mia. Stunned, Mia stops the group from ending the possession to keep talking to her mother in time. Riley's body is overtaken by the spirits and they make him attempt suicide; he is hospitalised in critical condition.

Mia, now haunted by visions of Rhea, is blamed for Riley's injuries and shunned by Jade and her mother Sue. Having secretly taken the embalmed hand, Mia offers Daniel to stay for the night at her father's house. Whilst platonically sharing a bed with Daniel, she witnesses a spirit appear and suck on Daniel's feet. When he wakes up, he instead sees Mia sucking his feet in a trance and leaves. Mia uses the hand to contact Rhea, who insists that her death was accidental and that she needs to help Riley, who is still possessed and attempts suicide every time he returns to consciousness. Mia leaves the connection open and begins seeing her mother without the hand, losing her grasp on reality.

The friends track down Cole, who explains that a living body naturally expels invading spirits. Mia, fearing that Riley may not have time, attempts to contact him in the hospital by using the hand but is instead shown a vision of Riley being tortured by spirits in limbo. At home, Max reads Rhea's suicide note to Mia and apologises for hiding the truth from her. Rhea's spirit tells Mia that Max is lying, and Mia hallucinates that she is being violently attacked by Max, causing her to inadvertently stab the real Max. Rhea tells Mia that Riley needs to die in order to be set free from his possession. Mia kidnaps Riley from the hospital and Jade sees Mia pushing Riley in a wheelchair toward the highway. Rhea attempts to convince Mia to push Riley into oncoming traffic, but instead Mia falls into the oncoming traffic and lies badly injured on the road.

Mia finds herself in the hospital, where she sees a fully recovered Riley talking to Jade and Sue while Max leaves in an elevator. Nobody responds to her, she has no reflection in the mirror and her hands are disfigured. After becoming engulfed in darkness, she sees a hand extended over a candle in the distance. She grabs it and is suddenly summoned to a house party in Greece, where a partygoer holding her hand is urged to speak and tells Mia "I let you in."

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Talk to Me is a co-production of Causeway Films, Bankside Films, and Talk to Me Holdings, and is a presentation of Screen Australia in association with the South Australian Film Corporation, Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund, Head Gear Films, and Metrol Technology.[7][8] Directors Danny and Michael Philippou worked closely with producer Samantha Jennings, one of the co-founders of production company Causeway Films, who is familiar with Adelaide. They knew her from working with her on The Babadook (2014), another Causeway Films production, and credit her with keeping them grounded and helping to shape the film.[9]

Release[edit]

Talk to Me sold to numerous international distributors at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.[10] It had its debut in a preview screening at the Adelaide Film Festival on 30 October 2022, the closing night of the festival.[11][12]

The film had its international premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in its midnight lineup.[13] After the premiere spurred a bidding war with Universal Pictures and others, A24 won and acquired the rights to distribute the film in the United States.[14][15] Maslow Entertainment, Umbrella Entertainment and Ahi Films were confirmed to be co-distributing the film in Australia and New Zealand.[16]

The film had its European premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and also screened in the United States at South by Southwest (SXSW) that same year.[17][18][19][20] The film also had its Canadian premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival on 23 July 2023.[21][22]

Talk to Me was theatrically released in Australia on 27 July 2023,[23] before releasing on the following day in the United States and Canada,[24][25][26] the United Kingdom and internationally.[27][9] In Kuwait, however, the film was banned from the theatrical release, reportedly for featuring a transgender actor, Zoe Terakes. The reports came despite the fact that the film was screening in other parts of the conservative Gulf region.[28][29] Terakes expressed their disappointment about the news on social media.[29] On 9 August, the Kuwaiti authority formally announced the ban of both Talk to Me and American comedy film Barbie (which has an underlying feminist theme, as well as a transgender actor), claiming that it was to protect "public ethics and social traditions".[30]

Talk to Me was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on 3 October 2023,[31] and in Australia on 25 October 2023.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

As of October 27, 2023, Talk to Me has grossed $48.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $42.2 million in other countries and territories, for a worldwide total of $90.5 million.[2][3]

In the United States and Canada, Talk to Me was released alongside Haunted Mansion, and was originally projected to gross $4–5 million from 2,340 theaters in its opening weekend.[32] After making $4.2 million on its first day (including $1.3 million from Thursday night previews), weekend estimates were increased to $10 million. It ended up debuting to $10.4 million and finished in fifth, marking the best start for an A24 film since Midsommar in July 2019.[33] The film made $6.3 million in its second weekend (a drop of 40%, better than average for a horror film).[34] The film remained in the top 10 over its first six weeks, and on September 3 surpassed Hereditary as A24's highest-grossing horror film domestically with a running total of $44.5 million.[35]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 281 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's consensus reads: "With a gripping story and impressive practical effects, Talk to Me spins a terrifically creepy 21st-century horror yarn built on classic foundations."[36] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 76 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[37] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[33]

Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times wrote, "Distinguished by wonderfully gooey practical effects and deeply distressing visual jolts (especially when young Riley falls under the hand's malignant influence), Talk to Me has a hurtling energy that's often violent but never purposefully cruel." She also applauded Wilde and Bird's performances, saying the film "owes much of its potency to Sophie Wilde's continually evolving lead performance" and "a remarkable Joe Bird."[38] Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times also praised Bird and Wilde's performances, writing, "Joe Bird, in a superb and surprising performance," and, "But even when Talk to Me flirts with incoherence, Wilde pulls it back from the brink. More than just a great scream queen, she makes vivid sense of Mia's ravaged emotions, revealing her to be a captive less to the spirit realm than to her own inconsolable grief."[39]

Jake Wilson of The Sydney Morning Herald gave the film 3½ out of 4 stars, writing, "The grim prologue leaves little doubt that horrible things are going to happen to people we're asked to care about – and while the ending may not fully satisfy the emotional expectations that have been built up, better too few comforting explanations than too many."[40] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film three out of four stars, saying the story had "shaky logic" but also "a rock-solid sense of instilling dread with a minimum of special effects and a sound design that turns the chill up to 11."[41] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film, saying that it "deftly stitches its deepest fears around the idea that grief and trauma can be open invitations to predatory forces from the great beyond. It marks a welcome splash of new blood on the horror landscape." Rooney also applauded the performances, writing, "While the predominantly young cast is solid, especially Bird as Riley, talented newcomer Wilde does the heaviest dramatic lifting."[42]

In a more divisive review, Dennis Harvey of Variety wrote, "A somewhat mixed bag, as the script doesn’t fully ballast the serious tenor, this is nonetheless a confidently crafted effort with enough intriguing elements to keep viewers involved, if not particularly scared."[43] More critically, Matthew Mongale of The Austin Chronicle stated, "Trauma has become a catch-all shorthand for many horror filmmakers, and as much as the Philippous prove their worth as horror directors, as writers the relationship between two families bonded by trauma proves too complex for them to bring home."[44]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards 10 December 2023 Best Youth Performance Joe Bird Nominated [45]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society 13 December 2023 Best Horror/Sci-FI Movie Talk to Me Nominated [46]
St. Louis Film Critics Association 17 December 2023 Best Horror Film Won [47]
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 19 December 2023 Best First Feature Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou Nominated [48]
Best Youth Performance Joe Bird Nominated
Phoenix Critics Circle Awards 23 December 2023 Best Horror Film Talk to Me Won [49]
Astra Film and Creative Arts Awards 6 January 2024 Best Horror Feature Nominated [50]
Golden Tomato Awards 10 January 2024 Best-Reviewed International Movie of 2023 Won [51]
Austin Film Critics Association Awards 10 January 2024 Best First Film Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou Nominated [52]
Denver Film Critics Society 12 January 2024 Best Sci-Fi/Horror Talk to Me Nominated [53]
Black Reel Awards 16 January 2024 Outstanding Lead Performance Sophie Wilde Nominated [54]
Golden Scythe Horror Awards 27 January 2024 Best Picture Talk to Me Won [55]
Best Actress in a Leading Role Sophie Wilde Won
Best Supporting Actor Joe Bird Nominated
Saturn Awards 4 February 2024 Best Horror Film Talk to Me Won [56]
Best Film Direction Danny and Michael Philippou Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Film Sophie Wilde Nominated
AACTA Awards 10 February 2024 Best Film Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton Won [57]
Best Direction Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou Won
Best Screenplay in Film Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman Won
Best Lead Actress Sophie Wilde Won
Best Supporting Actor Zoe Terakes Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Alex Jensen Nominated
Best Cinematography Aaron McLisky Nominated
Best Editing Geoff Lamb Won
Best Original Music Score Cornel Wilczek Won
Best Sound Emma Bortignon, Pete Smith, Nick Steele Won
Best Hair and Makeup Rebecca Buratto, Paul Katte, Nick Nicolaou Won

Future[edit]

Prequel[edit]

In August 2023, Danny and Michael Philippou revealed that they had already completed principal photography on a prequel film, with the story exploring Duckett's backstory which leads into the character's introduction in the original movie. Production was completed consecutively, from the perspective of screenlife storytelling through mobile phones and social media. Sunny Johnson features as Duckett. The filmmakers stated that they intend to release this project in the future.[58][59] Later that month, the filmmakers revealed that sequences from the project were released by anonymously uploading them online as a means of marketing for Talk to Me. These sequences were removed from the internet due to complaints and concerns, about their content. The sequences will be officially released at a future date.[60][61]

Sequel[edit]

In August 2023, the Philippous confirmed plans to develop a sequel, stating that they've already written sequences for the project.[58][59] Later that month, A24 announced that a sequel titled Talk 2 Me was in development; with the studio releasing the sequel's official logo at that same time.[62] Danny and Michael Philippou will return as co-directors, from a script written by returning writers Danny and Bill Hinzman.[63][62]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]