“What are we human beings? Ghosts, impalpable shadow” So wrote Sophocles in Ajax. And also Talk to Me ptalk about ghosts. And basically the film debut of twins Danny and Michael Philippou is a Greek tragedy disguised as a horror film. From the producers of the masterpiece Babadookdesigned by A24, the well-known production and distribution company that triumphed at the 2023 Oscars with Everything Everywhere All at Once, Talk To Me will be released in Italian cinemas on September 28th thanks to Midnight Factory, Plaion Pictures’ horror label.
“Never judge a book by its cover”, as the maître à penser in guêpière Frank-N-Furter. Because at a first, distracted glance, the feature film could be yet another, bloodless, cheap product for teenagers to watch distractedly, while messaging on WhatsApp or browsing, listlessly looking for a viral video on Tik Tok. In short, it is not the usual gang of dull, doped and tipsy youngsters, who playfully evoke the exotic pagan demon with consequent computer graphic carnage and indiscriminate and illegal use of jumpscare. Instead, without taking the stage, dodging standard moralism, the two directors, through a frightening and supernatural story, photograph the reality in which we live with style and effectiveness. The great Lucio Fulci was right: “Horror (when it is done well) is above all a cinema of ideas.”
Talk to Me, the plot of the film
The incipit of Talk to Me it’s a killing joke. Thanks to an applause-inducing sequence shot, the film transports us to the most obvious of elegant villas with swimming pools where the even more violent affair takes place, including drugs, sex (but without rock’n roll9 which young people no longer like). The theater of debauchery soon turns into a crime scene. A boy named Duckett, half naked, rolls around in the bathroom and babbles nonsense. The partying companions, it goes without saying, immortalize the delirium of the loser, not even the paparazzi in Via Veneto at the time of the Dolce Vita. Only Cole, the older brother, tries to help his little brother in the midst of a bad trip. But it’s too late. The Black Lady marks another notch on her rifle. The boy first stabs the rescuer and then commits suicide Oedipus style when he blinded himself to atone for his guilt. Fade to black and the title of the film reveals itself. And we are in a diametrically opposite situation
The cognition of pain
Now the protagonist is Mia (Sophie Wilde), a 17 year old girl. It’s the anniversary of her mother’s death. As happens in almost all horror films of recent years, the girl is unable to communicate with her father, who is perpetually depressed. ça va sans dire The only solution to anesthetize the pain and desperation is to escape to reach the house of her best friend Jade.
When a spirit possession video on Snapchat goes viral at school, Mia sees an opportunity to get the attention of Jade, who now only has eyes for Daniel, who was Mia’s first boyfriend when they were kids. Mia convinces Jade and Daniel to join her during the next spirit summoning. When their friends produce a ceramic hand made from the embalmed arm of a medium and use it to get possessed by spirits, the kids immediately find their new high. The only rule of the game is to exorcise the spirit within 90 seconds, otherwise the spirit will try to stay. Mia’s turn comes to pronounce the fateful phrase “Talk to me”, and the young woman is immediately possessed by a very vulgar entity that takes control of her body. Mia is thrilled: she hasn’t felt so alive in a long time and she is totally fascinated by this experience. But you must always be afraid of what you want. And that hand will open the door to hell for the girl and her friends
Loneliness in the times of social media
“The loneliness that angels do not know” (the quote is from Chekhov) is instead the faithful and implacable companion of the young protagonists ofi Talk to Me. With 1.5 billion views on YouTube (their channel is called RACKARACKA), they know teenagers and their world, their anxieties. In fact, the film represents one of the very few horror films in which young actors do not act as adults who mimic the language of children. And a couple of truly cruel, powerful and well-made horror sequences are enough to terrify the audience. It may be trivial, but too much is a bad thing because it isn’t increasing the number of corpsesl Body Count which amplifies fear. Without this surgical precision in narrating a world in which no one communicates (in this sense the title of the feature film is truly brilliant) but everyone photographs, mocks and is terrified of being cringe, the film would have been harmless if not downright laughable. Also because the embalmed hand has less Wiccan allure than the famous tablet
WE ARE OUR OWN DEMONS
The twins are already working on a prequel to Talk To MAnd. And it’s excellent news for a genre in which photocopying often goes crazy. The processing of mourning, the knowledge of pain, the dictatorship of social media, the dependence to escape suffering inhabit like ghosts this surprising and alien horror, fortunately to mockery, to coarse-grained (self-)irony, to bulimic overdose of metacinema, which only masters of the caliber of Wes Craven can afford. Of course, there is no shortage of quotes, tributes and sources of inspiration: from Nightmare to It Follows, from The Ring to The Grudge, but they are never presented with the arrogance and superficiality of those who, deep down, think that horror cinema is a minor, second-class genre. Cautiously, on tiptoe, like a ghost whispering in your ear, the film he has the courage to take himself seriously, while joking with the bric brac of the spiritualism of yesteryear. They are not faced with the Munbo Jumbo evoked by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) in The Ninth portto. The work, however, poses the age-old dilemma of whether we should trust the living or the dead. And above all it reminds us of Goethe’s aphorism: “We are our own demons, we expel ourselves from our paradise”.