For anyone who’s terminally online, it’s just about impossible to watch Danny and Michael Philippou’s debut horror movie Talk to Me without thinking, This is a million memes in the making. The Philippous — the Australian twins behind the billion-view RackaRacka channel on YouTube — themed their graphically bloody, thrill-focused A24 horror movie around the idea of possession as a party game, a source for nervy dares and exciting online videos. Given Talk to Me’s “scariest movie of 2023” reputation and that party-game structure, it seems inevitable that it’s going to spark a trend of YouTubers and TikTokers posting their own gleeful spins on the movie’s story.
And the directors are more than down for it. Speaking with Polygon, they both light up when presented with the possibility of fans making “I tried the Talk to Me trick and got possessed” TikToks in the spirit of the Grimace Shake.
“Oh my God, I would love to see that!” Danny says. “I think that that’s so fun, to run with a film, doing your own versions, and wanting to reenact a horror sequence and being creative — I’d be excited to see that!”
In Talk to Me, a group of Australian teenagers acquire a plaster hand covered with threatening graffiti, supposedly containing the actual preserved hand of a medium. By lighting a candle, grasping the hand, and saying “Talk to me,” a participant makes contact with a supernatural force. If they follow up by saying “I let you in,” that force seizes control of their body until the candle is blown out.
The process works every time — the movie never dodges the question of whether the supernatural is real. So it becomes a party game, where young people take turns being possessed while everyone else present laughs, comments, and captures the process on their phones. There are a lot of themes at work in the movie, but two of the bigger ones are the peer pressure to participate, and the more troubling aspects of social media, such as the urge to do dangerous things to earn online attention.
“It was just sitting down and expressing the things that were scaring me at the time,” Danny says. “Things that were frightening to me and would bother me. It was just putting that stuff on the page and trying to find a genre way to express it, really.”
“Danny couldn’t afford a therapist,” Michael adds.
Focusing an entire movie around the horrors of doing wild things for likes and clicks is a particularly interesting flex for people who built a huge fandom out of extreme, hilarious online stunts. The Philippous acknowledge the irony, but say their own experience in that world helped them conceive Talk to Me.
“We know that whole world inside out,” Danny says. “[And we’ve seen] in general how trends blow up, and how some people push it too far. And things that some people do for attention, which can end up being really dangerous. We’ve done stuff that is dangerous as well.”
But Michael says the difference is their work has always been rooted in the cinematic experience. “That’s what we’re always trying to make — something that has to do with filmmaking. So it’s kind of different from trendsetting stuff.”
Essentially, Talk to Me is about bringing that cinematic experience to the fascination with the occult and the “playing with fire for fun” attitude that the Philippous were already seeing in online videos.
“We were mainly just trying to do something current — if possession was a real thing now, I feel like this is what would be happening,” Michael says. “We’d be doing it too.”
“If you look up [occult] hashtags on TikTok, and you look at #possessions or people trying Ouija boards, you’ll find examples [of this kind of video] — people are fascinated by the idea of the afterlife and of ghosts,” Danny says. “There’s a morbid curiosity and obsession with serial killers and the darker things of life and the supernatural. So it makes complete sense to me that possession would be used as a little party trick.”
“Back in the day, you don’t walk into the dark forest,” Michael says. “Whereas now you do it and you film it.”
The Philippous say the process of fans mounting their own social media spins on Talk to Me has already started. “We’ve been tagged in a few things from around the world, and from different screenings, people having fun with it,” Michael says. “It’s heartwarming to be like, Oh, we made something that people connect with and are doing their version of, or are having fun with.”
“It feels awesome to see people showing up to screenings with their own [plaster possession] hands,” Danny says. “It’s so surreal. It’s so cool. you wouldn’t expect it. If there were kids jumping off roofs because of us, then I’d feel really bad. But if they’re, like, faking a possession — I think that’s quite fun.”
Talk to Me opens in limited theatrical release on July 28, with a nationwide rollout to follow.