It makes some sense why, in Talk to Me – the new A24 horror film coming out this weekend by twin brothers Danny And Michael Philippou – a group of rambunctious young people would be so gung ho to let demons possess their bodies. Normally, even in horror movies, people don’t like that, as opposed to willingly letting it happen. (Though Ghost is a notable exception, but then again in that case we’re talking about Patrick Swayze.) You see, there’s this evil statue of a hand. If a person grabs the hand and says, “Talk to me,” a ghoul appears in front of the person. Next, the person has the option of letting the ghoul possess their body, which seems, from the get-go, a pretty bad idea.
The reason it makes at least some sense is both Danny And Michael Philippou (these are two very spirited fellows) made their bones with YouTube videos and, yes, at one time owned a YouTube house. If you are the kind of person who would willingly live in a YouTube house and, as the Philippous say, love attention, then, yes, I could see the hand being a pretty popular thing to do. Though, in the film, if you let the ghost possess you for over three minutes, there are repercussions, as Mia (Sophie Wilde) finds out the hard way as she is now haunted by visions even without touching the hand.
Ahead, Danny And Michael Philippou (did I mention how spirited these two are?) try to convince me that if I were at one of their parties I would touch the hand. I concede, yeah, maybe, but once I see a ghoul I’m not ever letting that thing inside me and that would be it. They didn’t believe me.
Danny: What are those posters you got behind you?
Michael: Is that La La Land on the right?
It is. It’s hanging up because I got quoted on it.
Michael: What’s the quote? What’s the quote?
Danny: [Laughs] How awesome.
So it’s all about my ego.
Danny: What about the one next to it? Did you get quoted on that one?
Well, that is a movie called Manhattan Cocktail and it came out in 1928, so I did not get quoted for that. By the way, it’s a lost movie. It doesn’t exist anymore.
Michael: Oh, really? Wow.
Okay, so your movie … you know what I thought after watching it? It’s just kids having fun.
Danny: Until it gets messy.
These kids wanted to show themselves a nice time.
Danny: That’s a beautiful way to view it.
So, usually in horror movies, people do not want to get possessed.
Danny: Man. I think that this generation would do The Hand if it existed. I think I would do The Hand if it existed…
To be fair, you both lived in a YouTube house. So I do believe you both would definitely do this, but there’s a large segment of society who do not want to live in a YouTube house as well.
Michael: Yeah, that’s the thing. I guess our take, if this was real, that’s what would be happening with people that we know. It’s just the world that we grew up.
Danny: If you look up Ouija board on TikTok, you’ll see kids just wanting to get possessed and doing that Ouija board…
But we all know that’s fake. This thing’s real. You see the monster. You don’t see anything with the Ouija board.
Michael: Back in the day, it used to be, “Don’t walk into the dark forest. Don’t do this horrific thing.” Now it’s, “Do it and film yourself doing it.” It’s this attention-seeking culture that we’re a part of. It’s anything to get attention: positive or negative. But young people haven’t built in their minds, some of them, what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s what gets seen. And that’s a big part of it.
Danny: Even people staying in haunted rooms, or are signing up for haunted experiences, or going on the tracks where serial killers murdered all these people, or obsessing over true crime – there is a morbid obsession with today’s society.
Michael: And doing it safely. I think that these kids, in their minds, are doing it safely. Because it’s like, “You have other people that can pull The Hand off. We’re going to time it.” You’re not scared and by yourself. You’re going to be looked after. And they’ve got a set of rules that they think works.
But I think once I see the grizzly monster right in front of me, well, I’ve had enough. I’m not going to let this thing inside me. I’m going to bow out gracefully here.
Michael: I’d be the same. I’d wait to connect with the spirit I want to let in. One that looks nice.
Danny: “Yeah that one looks nice, maybe I’ll let them in.” I feel like I’d do The Hand with a very close group of friends that I trust entirely. And I wanted to capture that, falling a victim to your vices a little bit. And throughout that film at those possession parties, every party, it dwindles, and it gets more and more sad and more and more lonely.
Michael: It starts off big, and then you see as the film goes on, the party’s getting smaller and smaller.
Danny: I think that the case of alcohol and drugs? It can be the case. Someone that gets addicted to those things.
To be fair, in Ghost, Whoopi Goldberg allows herself to be possessed.
Danny: Oh my God! That movie is so fun. I only watched that recently. It’s awesome.
I’ll admit, if I touch The Hand and Patrick Swayze is in front of me, yeah, I’d probably be like, sure, come on in.
Danny: Oh my God. She should have kissed Whoopi Goldberg. It should have been Whoopi Goldberg for that scene. It would’ve been phenomenal.
So you’d let in the grizzly monster? You would both do that? Or you’d only do it if it’s Sam Wheat?
Michael: I’d do it if it were Mike Ryan, I’d probably let him in.
Say no. You don’t want anything to do with what’s going on up here. Say no to that one.
Danny: Also, important for us as well, is that each of the demons that the kids are connecting to are connecting and drawn to their emotions and everything as well. So both your mental states are the same, that’s why you’re drawn to Michael’s physical being.
Living in a YouTube house, is that where an idea like this comes from? Like, what’s a crazy thing we could all do together that would get views?
Danny: The main inspiration for this were these neighbors that we watched grow up. And as one of these kids was growing up, he was experimenting with drugs for the first time, and he was convulsing on the floor and having a really negative reaction. And all the kids that he was with, no one went to help him. Everyone was filming him and laughing. And that clip was going around on Snapchat and I remember seeing that footage and it really bothered me. I’m so surprised that the reaction to this really horrifying reaction was literally just laughing, pointing, and stuffing his face. And he was on the floor! His eyes nearly rolled to the back of his head and people were shooting it. That just seems to speak to today’s generation a little bit. Not that I’m saying that social media is all bad. I don’t at all, because I think there are positives and negatives to almost all those things … You would do The Hand. You would do The Hand, my friend.
I said I would do The Hand. But once I saw the creature that would be it for me.
Michael: It’s the same with drinking. Imagine your alcohol had a face. It was like, it’s happy or sad. You’re like, “If it’s happy, I’ll drink it.” But if it’s sad you’re not going.
I did want to ask, a lot of people who get their start on YouTube and social media are still quite satisfied there and have huge followings. Was it you wanted more than that?
Michael: It’s been our dream since we were little kids. Film and television’s always been our overall goal. And when growing up, we didn’t want to be YouTubers. That was never a thing. We wanted to be filmmakers. YouTube we just fell into. So it was so quick to gain traction and all so much fun and you see progress straight away. You see subscribers.
You get immediate satisfaction.
Michael: Yeah, you can make stuff and then it gets seen straight away. With a script it’s not like that. It’s a lot of long nights – long sad nights by yourself writing. I mean, Danny is a depressed fool when he is writing. You don’t get that instant validation. And it takes time. It takes a lot more time. But it’s a long-term form.
Danny: It’s more rewarding! I feel that going on set, it was the most overstimulating experience: writing, casting, directing, editing. That whole entire experience of collaborating with all these masters of their craft and everyone putting all their creative energies into this one big product, is the most incredible feeling in the world.
‘Talk To Me’ opens in theaters this weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.