Viral Video Horror Movie at Sundance

Viral Video Horror Movie at Sundance

Mia (Sophie Wilde) in the horror film, Talk to Me. Image: Sundance

Social media and peer pressure can be powerful tools in modern society and both play a huge and gruesome role in the super smart and scary new movie Talk to Me. Directed by YouTubers RackaRacka (real names Danny and Michael Philippou), this Australian horror film follows a group of friends who reunite to try this new viral stunt: let a spirit from beyond the grave possess you for a few minutes. Kids find it funny and maybe a little weird, but nothing can go wrong, right?

Starting things off with a long, impressive shot through a lively house party that ends with a jaw-dropping reveal, Talk To Me pulls no punches. When it’s good, scary and violent, it’s very good, very scary and very violent. In those moments, you watch it and feel like maybe, just maybe, you’re watching one of the next big horror franchises being born. The potential is so strong. However, as the film progresses, its tight, tense, clever premise becomes a bit murky, and the third act can’t match the intensity of everything that came before it. Still, if you’re a horror fan, there’s more to like than dislike.

Mia (Sophie Wilde) is a young teenager with a complicated family life. She lost her mother in curious circumstances, doesn’t speak much to her father, and spends most of her time with her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade’s brother Riley (Joe Bird), and their mother, Sue ( Lord of the Rings’ Miranda Otto). One night, Mia and the siblings go to a party hoping to try out this new viral sensation that all of their friends are posting about. You grab that weird, creepy, disembodied hand, and it lets a random spirit into your body. At first Mia doesn’t believe it’s real, but when she tries she becomes obsessed with it, and in the days that follow everyone wants to try too. Maybe even some people who shouldn’t.

In the beginning, Talk To Me keeps us engaged and guessing by laying out some very definite and interesting rules about the ritual along with some teasing about its overall implications. The film has an authentically youthful energy, thanks to its simple yet effective camerawork, music, and design choices. As each teenager tries their hand, we see wildly different, wildly weird, and sometimes downright awful results. For the characters as for the audience, chance is pleasure. That is, until one session goes very, very wrong and the fallout forces everyone to deal with disturbing real-life implications.

This pivotal incident and everything that preceded it are the highlights of the film, but unfortunately things never quite get back to that level. For the rest of the film, the rules and logic behind the game get a little muddy as spirits start to appear elsewhere than at parties and during rituals. And while the movie never does these things for no reason or explanation, once the rules are thrown out and the scares are more random, much of the innovation and fun is lost.

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Even after things go down a notch, there are still plenty of great scary moments and surprises. Wilde’s performance in particular, as a girl wracked with guilt and fear who finds herself getting deeper and deeper into something she can’t understand, is very impressive and gives the film needed cohesion. Then, at the end, you’ll no doubt be watching more of this story and exploring other ways to use the idea. You just wish the super smart and scary premise would have been less of a stepping stone and more of the overall point.

Talk To Me is currently playing at the Sundance Film Festival and will appear at other festivals in the coming months. A24 has scooped up the rights, so be on the lookout for a wider release later this year.

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