Talk to Me Danny and Michael Philippou (“Rocka Rocka”) worked on 2014’s great Australian horror film “The Babadook.”
But this year they are directing a horror film, starring Sophie Wilde and Miranda Otto. It premiered at SXSW and is being distributed by A24, beginning July 28th.
The film opens with pounding intense music at a party. A young man wades through the crowd to a room in the back and pounds on the door, insisting that his brother open the door. When the brother does not open the door, he breaks it down. Mayhem involving a large butcher knife ensues. The Philippou brothers have our attention.
The plot involves a hand that supposedly belonged to a psychic who communicated with the dead. Teenagers come into possession of it, and all hell breaks loose.
You must grasp the hand (supposedly the mummified remains of the psychic who owned and used it previously. You must light a candle and snuff it out when done. You must say “Talk to me,” followed by “I let you in” and that’s when the fun and games begin. Did I mention that you, as the subject doing this for “fun” at a party are tied to the chair and that only 90 seconds must elapse before the candle is blown out, or else the spirit that inhabits you might not leave your body? If you go longer than 90 seconds and happen to die during the time the spirits from limbo are inhabiting your body, they will take your corporeal self over and you are theirs, apparently forever with a very long-term habit of terrorizing and torturing other normal idiots who take up the hand and use it as a party trick.
If you’ve followed this, so far, be aware that some studios gave the directors notes on their script that said they must get the history of the hand and explore that more fully. One of the two directors, appearing after the screening, said, “When I read that, I said, WTF is this? I don’t want to do that. We’d get notes like ‘You’re fired if you can’t get these in,’ so we went the indie route.”The moderator noted, with only thinly veiled sarcasm, that U.S. studios have entire offices of people who give filmmakers horrible notes, which the successful directors learn to ignore.
The filmmakers, instead, chose to gather friends and people’s whose opinions on the horror genre they trust(ed); they used their feedback, instead. Asked if they would refuse to use any horror technique seen elsewhere, the answer was, “I found it fun to do a spin on certain tropes. We wanted to have the film be both horror and drama. Life isn’t all one emotion.” The director mentioned films he admires: the Russian film “The Return” or “Memories of Murder.”
The Philippous finally went indie because they had heard and read a lot about studios requiring directors to do things a certain way and the director not having final cut. As one said, “We wanted to make a horror story, not become one.”
Newcomer Sophie Wilde carries most of the movie on her slender shoulders, and she does a great job. The
consensus was that we were in the presence of a movie star. When asked how she got into the frame of mind to do the most grueling scenes, she referenced music and said, “I’m a firm believer in music to get into that mood: techno and ambient to get to a dark place.”
This film is quite the dark place. The make-up people did not get the nod they deserve, as the apparitions that haunt those who use “the hand” were horrifyingly grotesque. Sophie, herself, noted that some of the scenes were shot in an extremely hot, small room and, “I thought I was possessed. I was so hot. I felt like I wasn’t a real human being.”
This is an auspicious beginning with A24 for the Philippous. It was much more creative than the bigger budget “Evil Dead Rise.”
|Directors:||Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou|
|Executive Producer:||Stephen Kelliher, Sophie Green, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Daniel Negret, Noah Dummett, John Dummett, Jeff Harrison, Ari Harrison, Miranda Otto, Dale Roberts, Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou|
|Producer:||Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton|
|Screenwriter:||Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman|
|Cinematographer:||Aaron McLisky ACS|
|Production Designer:||Bethany Ryan|
|Sound Designer:||Emma Bortignon|
|Principal Cast:||Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Otis Dhanji, Zoe Terakes, Chris Alosio|