Jamie Skinner reviews Talk To Me: On the second anniversary of her mother’s (Alexandria Steffensen) death, teenager Mia (Sophie Wilde) learns what happens when you communicate with the dead for too long.

Cert - 15, Run-time - 1 hour 35 minutes, Directors - Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou

Ninety seconds is the limit given to hold the ceramic hand which allows the person gripping it to speak to the dead. In early scenes of supernatural communication, Talk To Me truly gets across just how much can happen in that initially short space of time. The taunts and attacks which can occur while the rest of the room laughs and records the goings on on their phones to post on social media.

Mia’s (Sophie Wilde) interested to try this new fad out, particularly on the second anniversary of her mother’s (Alexandria Steffensen) death. After attending a party with her best friend, Jade (Alexandra Jensen), with Jade’s younger brother Riley (Joe Bird) in tow, it’s not long until she gets a taste for the experience, taking the first opportunity she can find to go through it all again. Despite the smiles and laughs throughout the montage of constant new turns to talk to the dead there’s a fear factor which settles in. A tension gradually building that something is going to go wrong.

Eventually, of course, this is the case when the dead begin to attack and the idea that beyond ninety seconds is when they want to stay truly settles in. Debut feature twin directors Danny and Michael Philippou lean away from cliched jump-scares and instead allow the scares to come from the darkness of the piece. Once everything is properly established and the stakes are in place, leading to a more connected feel with the film, the tension rises and there are a number of effective, sudden scares.

The horror works best when it’s loud. Not in a quiet, quiet BANG! sort of way, but more in terms of bursts of clattering noise hammering away to add to the intensity of a moment. A sudden outburst of violence and bloodshed is increased by the sound of crashing and panic. One particular instance where we’re briefly taken to a flickering new location is a moment of pure terror.

Yet, much of the lingering scare factor is thanks to the uncertainty around the central ceramic hand. We only know as much as the character’s do - it’s a hand that with a few simple steps allows you to communicate with the dead and briefly possessed by a random figure - and that’s enough. For the most part we learn as they do, still feeling the uncertainty as the plot progresses; largely in the second half. 

Certain elements such as Mia’s distant relationship with her dad (Marcus Johnson) may not get much screen-time, but the central narrative surrounding the supernatural forces leaking into the world and haunting the core group makes for an effective horror. One which is particularly commendable for maintaining its darkness and not leaning into jump-scares.

Jamie Skinner, Four stars ****