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‘Talk to Me’: I’d rather you don’t

| Monday, September 18, 2023

Trey Paine | The Observer

Horror movies can be an easy hit or miss. The visuals, the storytelling, the acting, the person watching the film and a variety of other factors can cause what could have been a hit (or at least a decent film) to turn into a miss, becoming laughable, annoying or even forgettable. 

Sadly for me, “Talk to Me” fell into the latter half. Worst of all? It fell under the umbrella of “forgettable.” 

I initially didn’t believe “Talk to Me” would be a miss. It was one of the biggest horror movies that came out in 2022 with relatively high ratings throughout most platforms. People were saying “it’s a must-watch,” and I would be “scared if this was my first run-through.” It fell under the ghost/demon possession sub-genre of horror, which has always disturbed me. All of this made me excited to watch the film, and that in itself may have been its downfall. 

During the first five minutes, I could feel my excitement dampen. Sound was heavily used in the film, and that is perfectly fine. It’s a form of expression and can be used to tell more about the story and the people living in it. It is commonly used to build the anticipation in horror films. However, there is such a thing as an over reliance on sound, or rather, volume. 

The volume of the film differed widely based on the scene. In some cases, it was so loud I could feel it in the air, as if it was one of those cars whose music was so loud you could feel the rhythm projected in your lungs and eyes, vibrating them from the inside out. In other cases, the volume was so low I had to strain myself to hear what the people were saying. Or even both! In some scenes, the background noise was so loud it muffled the conversation we were supposed to focus on. The only scene that we didn’t witness this discordance seemed to be the flashes of consecutive possessions that the group underwent. 

Going even further along the film, the excitement I had left just turned into irritability (apologies to the people around us who had to witness my reactions) and, at the end, boredom. Most of the characters didn’t draw me in. Their actions seemed discordant in relation to the traits they already showed. I just wasn’t able to develop sympathy for any of them outside of Riley. Any sympathy I could develop, such as with Mia and the death of her mom, was immediately squashed by their actions, such as Mia letting Riley be possessed for far longer than what she originally stated. This leads me to believe that the writers were aiming for this sort of reaction, trying to show deeply flawed characters in a sympathetic light. It seemed if they were trying to say, “Hey they’re human, and humans just kinda suck sometimes, even the best of them.” This attempt felt rather flat, possibly due to how weak the storytelling was. 

The story idea was good, but the way it was told was weak. Not bad, but weak. Within the first 15 to 20 minutes (that is whenever Riley went to sleep with Mia), I could figure out the entire movie. Something was going to happen to Riley, probably possession, and the problem will directly stem from Mia. Mia will then have to conduct the mercy kill she avoided with the kangaroo at the beginning on some other living creature, in all likelihood Riley. She’ll fail and end up living her nightmare — existing in a world where she can’t see her reflection and other people can’t see her. In all likelihood, this other world would be on the other side of the hand. 

At the end of the line? This film was just forgettable. It didn’t leave much of an impression. It wasn’t satisfying. It just ended up missing its mark for this member of its audience.

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