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Ticket giveaway: Past Lives

LSJ and StudioCanal have 10 double tickets for an advanced preview of upcoming A24 Korean-American drama Past Lives, on Wednesday 23 August – 6.30pm at Event Cinemas George Street.

Written and directed by Celine Song, Past Lives follows two childhood friends, whose dreams of spending their lives together is torn apart as one of them migrates to Canada from South Korea. 20 years later, their paths cross once again, allowing the pair to rediscover the timeless concepts of fate, love, present and past. See the trailer here.

For a chance to win one of the double passes, email your name and LawID number to [email protected] with the subject line PAST LIVES by Friday 4 August

Talk to Me

 When Talk to Me first screened at Sundance earlier this year, it made such an impact esteemed indie distributor A24 reportedly bought the international distribution rights on the spot. 

For Millennial and Gen Z cinephiles, the A24 stamp on a film carries a lot of cred. It is the company responsible for the Ari Aster horror movies, Robert Eggers, and a gaggle of cult titles designed for the social media generation. To be in the same catalogue as 2014’s It Follows, or last year’s Bodies Bodies Bodies, means something. The distributor is known for carefully curating titles and championing auteurs, which positions them as the alternative to the soulless churning content machine of larger Hollywood studios.

It is certainly a business model but is at least one that dares to swing for the fences. For a little Australian horror film like Talk to Me to get this seal of approval is kind of a big deal.

Watching Talk to Me I saw what A24 saw in the film. It is a simple hard-hitting ghost story set in the world of young Australian high schoolers. It touches on social and race issues, modern teen trauma and ennui, and the effect of social media without dwelling too much on any these questions – or in other words, it does not sacrifice its entertainment value for the pursuit of a bigger truth. And all the kids kick along, yearning for a bit of excitement to come.

The set up follows Mia (Sophia Wilde), still reeling from the death of her mother, all but adopted by her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and her family, mother Sue (Miranda Otto) and younger brother Riley (Joe Bird). On a night out with friends, Mia tries a new viral craze where a person grabs a mysterious plastered hand to become possessed by the dead for fun. The spooky caveat is that you can only be possessed for a short time, lest you risk becoming lost forever.

But teens will be teens, and after a whole night where they take turns with the hand, like rotating a blunt between each other, Riley takes a turn after being possessed by Mia’s dead mother.

What a premise. Mia, broken by her trauma, unintentionally destroys the only stable constant in her life, and spirals on a descent of increasingly madness of nightmarish visions. It is all exciting and extremely entertaining, not particularly difficult to stomach if you are a horror veteran, but enough to keep the audience on its toes.

South Australian Directors, and twin brothers, Danny and Michael Philippou, find their references in Wes Craven – fast paced and effective horror, designed for the enjoyment of its plot. Originally YouTube content creators with over 6 million subscribers, the twins know what tickles an audience. Nothing is too esoteric, or overly complicated. And while that is a benefit for the setup in the first half hour of the film, the longer it goes, the more evident its cracks are.

The plot is tight. Engineered to the precision of business sharpness, every choice pre-meditated for optimal enjoyment. Sadly, this means that the few hints of depth are overshadowed and underdeveloped and relegated to the background. Say for example the representation of social media – an interesting idea to explore coming from two directors whose career started exactly in the world of viral sensationalism. The film starts with a teen looking for his brother at a party, only to find him in the middle of a self-mutilation episode while possessed. All recorded by a crowd of onlookers, phones in hands and flashlight dots brightly shining. It is a daunting image, considering its creators. And yet nothing like that is brought back. Chekov does not apply only to props, your smoking gun can be a theme.

Near the end, it feels like the film traps itself in its own constraints. The spiralling madness leads to one single moment of exciting creativity with a nightmarish scene that could have come straight from the sick mind of Clive Barker. Alas, instead of ending on a high and gruesome note, the film plays it safe and that is perhaps Talk to Me’s gravest sin. It is too close to comfort.

 Verdict: 3 out of 5
After a series of underwhelming Australian horror films, this one delivers the goods. A crowd-pleaser for better or for worse.