(directors: Danny and Michael Philippou; screenwriters: Danny Philippou/Bill Hinzman/based on a concept by Daley Pearson; cinematographer: Aaron McLisky; editor: Geoff Lamb; music: Cornel Wilczek; cast: Sophie Wilde (Mia), Alexandra Jensen (Jade), Marcus Johnson (Max), Miranda Otto (Sue), Otis Dhanji (Daniel), Zoe Terakes (Hayley), Ari McCarthy (Cole),  Chris Alosio (Joss), Alexandria Steffensen (Rhea, Mia’s mom), Joe Bird (Riley); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton; A24; 2022-Australia)

“Sophie Wilde’s natural performance makes this nonsense watchable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie twins and co-directors,
Danny and Michael Philippou, best known for their YouTube channel RackaRacka, shoot their debut feature as an entertaining but rather grim and creepy horror pic shocker. It’s co-written by Danny and Bill Hinzman and is based on the concept by Daley Pearson.

The 17-year-old Mia (Sophie Wilde) lives at home with her father, Max (Marcus Johnson). Her mother committed suicide two years ago and has left a void in her life. Father and daughter have a communication problem and don’t talk to each other, therefore Mia spends most of her time seeing her bestie Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade’s 14-year-old brother Riley (Joe Bird). Jade’s single mom
(Miranda Otto) works the night shift and is unaware of what the kids are up to when together.

Mia, on the anniversary of her mom’s death, after viewing in school a photo of a spiritual possession, takes Jade to a trendy bored teen thrill-seeking party hosted by a student (Chris Alosio) in her school. The party-goers hold onto an ancient embalmed hand to get news from the underworld. The rule is that they must not hold the hand for more than 90 seconds or there will be consequences. While holding the hand in front of the other teens a candle is lit to open the spiritual door and when blown out closes the door, and the participants become possessed by a supernatural spirit after saying “I let you in.”

Though the participants look like they’re undergoing torture, they afterwards say they were feeling high. When one teen opens the door to the spirit world by holding onto the hand for too long, we see the bad side of tripping out on such a dark-sided lark (there will be a stabbing and a suicide).

Sophie Wilde’s natural performance makes this nonsense watchable. The hip-hop music adds to the film’s appeal to the young crowd. It’s well-crafted, filled with some good ideas and provides some laughs along with its sordid horror moments. In its more serious moments, it reflects on how bored and vulnerable some modern-day teens are, how they can’t connect with their parents, and to what perverse things they might resort to if under the influence of their unaware peers. It also shows how some teens are stuck in a rut because they can’t cope with their life and end up doing dumb things (like playing dangerous games with the dark side).

To the film’s detriment, it seemed to drag in spots (time moved slowly) and was more promising than fulfilling.

It played at the Berlin Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 7/27/2023  GRADE: C+