Cinematic Releases: Let Them Inside You: Talk to Me (2023) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of A24

Twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou up until now have been running RackaRacka, a successful YouTube empire with almost seven million followers. Their bread and butter were gory horror-themed shorts and pop culture mash-ups, with content such as Real Life Mortal Kombat Fatalities and Game of Thrones vs. Lord of the Rings racking millions of views. In an intriguing pivot, the Philippou brothers have made a sophisticated high-concept horror film as their debut feature that has a few surprising twists on the possession genre. 

Talk to Me (2023) follows Mia (Sophie Wilde), a young woman who is still reeling from the suicide of her mother two years prior. She is estranged from her father and spends most of her time with her best friend, Jade (Alexandra Jensen), and her family. Mia and Jade are typical teenagers, hanging out and sneaking out to parties. One gathering has a new viral sensation: recreational possession. A mysterious embalmed hand is produced, and the participant grasps their hand. Saying "Talk to me" conjures a spirit, and then saying "I let you in" allows the ghost full access to their physical body. There is a 90-second limit on the possession because it is rumored that if one goes longer than that, the spirits will stay forever.

The idea of using possession as a "high" to get a rush and for social media fodder is an exciting take on the standard possession film, and the film is excellent at capturing the capricious nature of teens and the casual sociopathic behavior that can result. For the young, death is far in the future, more of an existential concept than a concrete reality, and their flippant attitude towards the spirits and their pain is expected. They feel invincible, and it gives them a sense of euphoria. It is not surprising that eventually, at one of the possession parties, things go very wrong, and the teens are caught up in forces they cannot understand or control.

Talk to Me works on a few different levels. On the surface, it's a ghost/possession film with all the tropes inherent in those works. Underneath, it's a meditation on grief and addiction and the way people will use the latter to cope with the former. During one of the sessions, Mia's friend is possessed by the spirit of her dead mother, and for a brief moment, she has the chance to reconnect with her. This small interaction haunts her for the rest of the film, and at this point, the construction of the narrative becomes more dream-like and abstract. After Mia's first possession early in the movie, she becomes an unreliable narrator, led astray by the whispers of the dead.

On a technical level, Talk to Me is highly polished, with a music video-type feel to the possession scenes that feels fresh and creative. The script takes a lot of suspension of belief to work, and if one scrutinizes motivations and details too intensely, it could fall apart. That being said, it works great as a mood or vibe piece, and the second half of the narrative is more potent and evocative due to it leaning into nightmare logic. Aesthetically, there is a strong vision and tight editing--the possession sequences especially are outstanding and shocking. Talk to Me doesn't pull any punches and harbors a mean streak that follows through all the way to the ending. The Philippou brothers have come out of the gate swinging with their debut film, and it will be interesting to see where they go next.

--Michelle Kisner