YouTube stars RackaRacka deliver a fresh and thrilling horror film debut backed with great performances
Initially, the thought of any kind of YouTube stars going from viral video fame to full-on filmmaking careers felt like a guaranteed nightmare. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of young, genuine talent and quality art to be found across the platform – there is – but when you consider the kind of online sensations that usually end up receiving lucrative deals from the Hollywood machine, talent and quality aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind.
Thankfully, the new generation of movie makers have been thriving in their own ways, especially in the horror space. This year kicked off with the phenomenon of Skinamarink, a uniquely terrifying feature that, according to director Kyle Edward Ball, couldn’t exist without the inspirations found on YouTube. Likewise, this summer’s Talk to Me comes from brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, who are best known as YouTube stars RackaRacka.
The film is their feature directorial debut, and while it may not play with format in the way Skinamarink does, it still displays the same level of creativity and originality. It’s also pretty damn scary. Of course, the Philippou’s aren’t exactly new when it comes to horror if you’ve ever come across their channel, and despite YouTube’s demand for relentless content, the strongest aspect of the brothers’ first feature film is its ability to constantly surprise.
Talk to Me tackles the paranormal in a fresh way, where connecting with the dead is basically part party game, part drug. The embalmed hand of a psychic does the trick; you just grasp it, say the movie’s title, and voila! You’re seeing ghosts! As long as you’re holding that hand, at least. Step 2, if you dare, is letting those ghosts possess you, where you’ll say all sorts of crazy things as your friends laugh and take videos on their phones of you.
What a good time! What a rush! Well, as long as you cut it off after a minute or so. Go any longer and it gets a little dicey, which is sadly what young Mia (Sophie Wilde) and her friends Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Riley (Joe Bird) find out when they give it a whirl for themselves. Mia is still not dealing well with the sudden death of her mother a couple of years back, which isn’t exactly the best kind of headspace to be in for this sort of thing.
Jade and Riley, who are brother and sister, as well as their mother Sue (Miranda Otto!), have become a surrogate family of sorts for the lonely and depressed Mia. Wilde delivers a stunning and gripping performance for her complicated character – Mia is the kind of protagonist that makes all the wrong choices, and it’s tragic to watch her despair continuously take hold of her, especially as we see at the start of the film that she’s often witty and full of life (pun only halfway intended).
Things obviously go awry for everyone with the whole ghost possession thing, and while it’s sad for them it’s to our great, terrified amusement. This is easily one of the best horror movies of the year, one that flies by with thrilling energy, plenty of nightmare fuel, and inventive ways that make the very tired possession subgenre come alive again. Don’t forget to smash that subscribe button.
‘Talk to Me’ is now playing in theaters.