REVIEW: TALK TO ME (2023) can be very bad for the bladder

At its core, TALK TO ME revolves around the significance of the grieving process and highlights the potential consequences of seeking escape through euphoria-inducing vices. Mia's journey serves as a vehicle to convey this poignant theme.
Orly Agawin

Around forty minutes into the rollercoaster of scares that is TALK TO ME (2023), my bladder decided to declare an emergency. Thanks to a giant Biggie mango iced tea from Wendy's, it felt like a ticking time bomb. But hey, I couldn't abandon my seat, not with the thought of the Philippou brothers' horrifying debut following me in the dark.

So there I sat, squirming in my seat, praying I wouldn't become the star of my very own horror show in the cinema's dark, creepy alleys just to take a pee break. Who needs bathroom breaks when you know that the terror on screen can creep along with you when you leave your seat, yes?

On her mother's tragic death anniversary, Mia (Sophie Wilde) finds solace in the company of her close friends, Riley (Joe Bird) and Jade (Alexandra Jensen), and Jade's no-nonsense mother, Sue (Miranda Otto). With the distance growing between Mia and her father, Max (Marcus Johnson), she seeks refuge at Riley's house, where they can be independent and responsible. However, this freedom also leads to Riley joining Mia and Jade at a party where an underground ritual has been going around young party scenes.

TALK TO ME brings an interesting twist to the classic horror trope of possession as it celebrates the directorial debut of twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou. Rising to fame with their daring stunts on their YouTube channel - RackaRacka - the duo displays an impressive level of sophistication usually seen in seasoned genre experts.

The film's pace and attention to visual details - from subtle character placements to haunting lighting and intimate close-ups - set a familiar yet unsettling atmosphere. Emma Bortignon's clever use of sound and Cornel Wilczek's muscular score further intensify the narrative's tension, leading to a crescendo of eerie voices, bangs, and bumps that culminate in a disturbing display of violence and terror.

The direction veers away from brainless jump scares, opting instead for a disturbing atmosphere that leaves you on edge. The film sets the stage with clever foreshadowing, particularly when Mia's classmates get entangled in a viral sensation involving spirits and an embalmed hand.

The lingering trauma from her mother's death plays a crucial role in Mia's decisions, as she desperately seeks to fill the void left by her grief. Wilde's exceptional portrayal of a grief-stricken Mia captures the conflicting emotions of heartbreak and numbness, making her character's pursuit of connection all the more compelling. Amidst the unsettling atmosphere, TALK TO ME delves into the addictive allure of the titular game, putting on center stage the dark allure of the unknown.

And it is quite interesting to see how the young blood finds joy in what could be terrifying and dangerous. Here, the Philippous presented a montage that depicts a series of momentary teenage euphorias that can be both fascinating and chilling to watch.

At its core, TALK TO ME revolves around the significance of the grieving process and highlights the potential consequences of seeking escape through euphoria-inducing vices. Mia's journey serves as a vehicle to convey this poignant theme.

The film dives deep into the fine line between subtle dismay and overt horror, making it an emotional cinematic experience. Even with a somewhat predictable ending involving a conniving ghost, TALK TO ME still manages to deliver a gut punch that leaves a lasting impression. With its intriguing themes and brilliant execution, there is much to appreciate in this gripping debut.

Because good horror is not mainly about brainless jump scares and shallow terrors. Good horror thrives on stirring disturbing themes into the plot; displacing likable characters, tearing relationships and infecting hope. Good horror challenges emotions deeper as it disturbs the norms of human connections and poses threats to current comforts.

For the next 55 minutes, I battled my bursting bladder in a heroic effort to avoid facing the terrifying journey to the restroom. I'd rather risk my bladder exploding than go on solo into the unknown darkness. Who knows what horrors lurk in the shadows?

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