Since the days of German Expressionism, horror cinema has always had a fascination with doppelgängers. Rarely has the genre trope been this appropriate.
We sat with a pair of doppelgängers who have just directed a horror movie. The filmmakers, Michael and Danny Philippou, happen to be identical twins, and their debut feature, Talk to Me, lands in theaters on July 28. The movie follows a group of Australian teenagers, led by a woman named Mia (Sophie Wilde), who discover a magical hand that allows them to communicate — and be possessed by — the dead for just over a minute. When Mia’s friend Riley (Joe Bird) holds on a little too long, Mia faces demonic and deadly consequences.
The Philippou Brothers’ style invokes a new innovation, showing characters reacting to horror before the audience sees it. That’s a distinct reverse from movies that love to show a killer stalking his prey, or that have monsters jump out of nowhere to scare the audience.
“We wanted the possessions to always be told from the point of view of Mia,” said Danny Philippou of the technique. “So any demons or spirits present in the film that Mia isn’t directly interacting with, we don’t see. We always wanted to base it from the point of view of our main character. Her face is more important than the face of the demon. You convey so much through her.”
Philippou’s observation testifies to the talent of Sophie Wilde, an actress who shot Talk to Me as her first feature film. The movie rests on the credibility of her performance, as well as that of Joe Bird, who plays Riley.
A Fresh, Terrified Face
“She was so committed,” said Danny of his leading lady.
There were days we’d ask her to come to set not having slept, and she’d do it. She was the most hands-on performer ever. So is Joe Bird. Joe did all his own stunts.
“They had done some things before,” added Michael. “It was mainly their auditions [that sold us on their casting]. “We knew how great they were. Sophie, we knew she could carry the whole film. For her audition, we had her do three scenes of different emotions to see how she played them. And she played them all beautifully. She was able to convey subtlety of every emotion on the whole scale. She can be terrified or terrifying. We never had to cut around Sophie or felt like she was bringing it 100% of the time.”
The Philippous Settle the DC Rumor Mill
Talk to Me has already generated enough positive buzz that Hollywood now eyes the Philippous, who began their careers on YouTube, for higher profile projects. The current rumor mill has them turning down directorial duties on an unnamed DC Comics adaptation. When confronted by the question, the two laugh, pointing the finger at each other.
“Danny was on a live stream,” giggled Michael, pointing at his brother. “We didn’t turn down anything! I don’t know what Danny is f*cking talking about! We love DC! We love James Gunn! Now you’ve gone and made enemies of DC!”
Danny shaked his head, laughing at himself as he does. He added:
Stuff was taken out of context. I was new to the industry, and I spoke too freely on a live stream. I apologize to James Gunn.
So what was the project that set off all the rumors? The brothers won’t say, though when pressed, they do reveal a different dream adaptation.
“Street Fighter!” crowed Michael, referring to the long-in-development-hell movie reboot of the popular fighting video game. “We may or may not be attached to develop and direct.”
Danny smiled with a nod.
Given the recent success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, we have a feeling we’ll hear more about Street Fighter and the Philippou brothers in the very near future.
A24s Talk to Me opens in theaters July 28.