SYNOPSIS: When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.
Australian filmmaking brothers Danny and Michael Philippou have been creating award winning content for their YouTube channel, RackaRacka since 2013 and have made a hugely successfully transition to the big screen here, hitting the mother lode with their feature debut to deliver one of the best horrors of the year.
The film opens in arresting fashion as a teenager, Cole, searches for his brother Duckett at packed house party. As he leads him through the crowd, Duckett unexpectedly stabs Cole and then himself. This is the first in a number of gasp out loud moments that are expertly crafted by the Aussie duo.
In a film brimming with sublime performances, lead actress Sophie Wilde really stands out from the crowd as Mia. Struggling on the anniversary of her mother’s death as well as a strained relationship with her emotionally distant father, her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and brother Riley (Joe Bird) are the familial rock to which she now clings. In a bid to take her mind off things, the three of them head off to a party hosted by school mates Joss (Chris Alosio) and Haley (Zoe Terakes). Putting a singular spin on the psychic medium, they produce an embalmed severed hand which will allow the person holding it to communicate with the dead. A doorway for the spirits is opened by lighting a candle and saying, “Talk to me” followed by “I let you in” so the user can be possessed. The door is then closed by blowing the flame out.
There’s only one rule: never go past 90 seconds.
The teens seem to get a high from being possessed, repeatedly taking turns in communing with the dead in Raimi-esque scenes that really pop. This aspect could be seen as an allegory on drug addiction in addition to the themes of grief and loss that forms the heart of the movie. Finally, young Riley takes a turn against his sisters wishes, and yep, you guessed it, passes the 90 second mark with devastatingly gruesome consequences as Mia, convinced that her mother is speaking through him, pushes things too far. What follows is a tightly orchestrated battle against time to save Riley as his life beings to slip away.
We’ve got to hand it to them that the practical effects on display are also finger-licking good, delivering grimly realistic shocks and gross-out moments in the shape of slimy corpses, all aided by a wonderfully atmospheric sound design. Those who find eyeballs unsettling will freak out during one particular scene, which I won’t spoil here, but which certainly proves to be one for the, ahem, eye-light reel!
Whilst the film isn’t scary, per se, the Philippou’s keep things fervently intense and maintain a sense of tangible dread throughout. The ending certainly leaves the door wide open for a sequel and this reviewer thinks this idea has the legs – and a hand – for at least another movie or maybe even a fully-fledged franchise…
…Talk to me!