A montage of sinister images that unfolds as a child’s voice recites “Can we make a secret?” over and over. The opening scenes of They Talk seem like so many other genre films, except for one thing. Rocco Marra’s (Calibro 9, Falchi: Falcons Special Squad) is beautiful and oozes a dark and menacing atmosphere.
That continues into the start of the story itself as a small crew of documentary filmmakers are shooting in an abandoned cemetery. While editing what he recorded Alex (Jonathan Tufvesson, The Ash Lad: In Search of the Golden Castle), the film’s sound man hears what seems to be a voice in the background, even though the crew were the only ones there. These trigger memories of his childhood in an orphanage near the location of the shoot. Memories that include a burning nun and an alter covered in human remains.
Director Giorgio Bruno (Hard Night Falling, Endless Dark), writers Vinicio Canton (Good and Evil, Crime Evidence), Stefano Ceccarelli and “story editor” Chiara Barbo certainly aren’t breaking any new ground with They Talk. Strange voices, repressed childhood memories, and evil activities in holy places all come into play within the film’s first few minutes.
It’s certainly no surprise when an interview with a local historian leads to the crew having to spend the night in a creepy old cabin. Or when Amanda (Rocío Muñoz, The Last Try, All Roads Lead to Rome), his companion from the orphanage reappears. at which point you know it’s just a matter of time before he finds himself back at the remains of the orphanage itself.
It’s a trip down a very familiar rabbit hole, but it’s a well-staged one with much better production values than many of these films. While it was shot in English, They Talk is an Italian film and they make good use of the landscape of that country’s Calabria region to stand in for the US. It looks enough like Wisconsin or Michigan to be convincing, although the Missouri plates on Alex’s truck threw me at first.
As noted, They Talk’s cinematography is exceptional and creates an atmosphere that helps get the film through its weaker moments. The night scenes in the old church and orphanage are especially effective and give the film an edge missing from so many recent low-budget horror films which have very flat and unimaginative photography.
And They Talk really needed that edge because it’s a bit of a slow burn in places, and a film revolving around voices and EVP is not the most cinematic of concepts. Watching Alex working with his sound editing software or sitting with Prof. Hasegawa (Hal Yamanouchi, The Wolverine, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) isn’t exactly visually stimulating so it needed to make the most out of scenes that do grab your eye.
Speaking of eye-grabbing, They Talk doesn’t have a lot in the way of effects but what it does have are well done. That includes a fire scene that was shot with a stunt performer rather than using CGI and an altar decorated with body parts. The kills certainly could have been bloodier, but at least there are on-screen kills with effects unlike many other films in its budget range.
Despite a plot that’s overly familiar, and at times seems a bit muddled, They Talk certainly held my attention. It also delivered several creepy moments, despite nearly ruining one with an incredibly mistimed sex scene. It’s definitely better than other recent genre offerings from Italy such as Fallen, Don’t Kill Me or Cruel Peter on which this film’s director was one of the producers. It’s hardly a return to the glory days of Fulci, Argento and Bava, but it is a step in the right direction.