“Talk to Me”: 5 Things I Loved/Learned

Adrian Todd Zuniga
4 min readAug 17, 2023

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I’m a total scaredy cat when it comes to horror films, but the hype around TALK TO ME (and the fact that it’s an Aussie film) lured me into the theatre. In short: the hype is justified, the Philippou brothers have created a deeply scary film, and I learned as much as I loved, which is a lot.

LOVED: The Opening 11 Seconds.

The film starts over black, as we hear a scary-as-fuck whirring that leads into a banger (“Ducks In A Row” by Lucianblomkamp & IJALE). That whirring unsettled me, and finding the link above brought me back to that moment, and made me feel like my chest might collapse. That’s a brilliant use of sound, and brought me back to the nightmare of the cold open.

The use of camera phones and social media in TALK TO ME was A++++

LEARNED: Deliver More Than Feels in a Cold Open

A screenwriter once told me, “Netflix demands that something incredible happen in the first five minutes.” TALK TO ME is like, Let’s make the audience crap their ever-loving pants in THREE. This movie kicks off with a sober man arriving at a bass-thumping house party, in frantic search of his brother. He has navigate a bunch blasé drunk/high party-goers, and what results is BONKERS (endless kudos to cinematographer Aaron McLisky for shooting this so slyly to maximize impact). But as perfect as this cold open is feels-wise, it does the vastly more important work of giving us the film’s backstory lightning-quick, and creating white-knuckle tension at nearly every quiet moment the rest of the way through.

How freaking PERFECT was Zoe Terakes as Hayley?

LOVED: The Kangaroo.

Early in the film, Mia encounters a wounded kangaroo in deep need of being euthanized. She backs up her car to run over it…but can’t bring herself to do it. At first, I couldn’t figure out why this was in there and then it hit me (because my partner told me): Mia wasn’t a killer, and couldn’t intentionally hurt people. Which sets up the events of the grand finale. (Also, seeing the kangaroo in the hospital at the end was great — just so sudden and unsettling.)

“I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.” — me whispering to myself in the theater

LEARNED: We, the Audience, Are the Film’s Most Vulnerable Character

Riley (Joe Bird), the little brother in the film, becomes the audience when he’s at risk of harm from an EXTERNAL antagonist (I’ll explain why I make the “external” distinction in a sec). Once Mia (Sophie Wilde) holds The Hand for more than 90 seconds during her first “Talk to me”/“I let you in” session, we’re reminded of what the cold open taught us: she’s now capable of ANYTHING. So when Riley’s too freaked out to sleep alone, and ends up in bed next to Mia, the external antagonist, WE, THE AUDIENCE, BECOME RILEY. Because she is a direct, external threat to his safety the tension in this scene INSANE. But! Later on, when Riley’s “possessed” and slams the back of his head against the tile it’s not SCARY but simply freaky and upsetting. That’s because he’s no longer the audience at this point, because we no longer identify/relate to him, and therefore there’s no creeping sense that we’ll be harmed.

It’s all fun and games until the 91st second

LOVED: The Hand Goes Both Ways

TALK TO ME’s most basic premise is plain excellent: a Hand that lets you interact with the dead. First you say, “Talk to me,” and a dead person appears. Incredible. But the filmmakers amplify the stakes with, “I let you in.” Which is what takes this movie from spooky to STOP DOING THAT, IT’S SO RECKLESS AND YOU DON’T KNOW THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS! (In short, The Hand is the hot new drug.) But what I love, love, love is the moment when Mia is trying to spare Riley and she interacts with a dead little girl and gets invited to go into the world of the dead. I never saw it coming, and it felt so fresh and surprising. There’s a lot more they could’ve done with it, but just having it happen was enough for me.

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Adrian Todd Zuniga

is an award-nominated author (Collision Theory), award-winning director/screenwriter (HOLD ME, DON'T TOUCH ME) and the creator and host of Literary Death Match.