What to see in theaters
Do you know Racka Racka, this completely delirious Youtube channel in which two Australian brothers rotate with porn stars, fight in Jedi outfits in public places and crash into Burger Kings dressed as Ronald McDonald? On paper, nothing predestined the two brothers in question, Danny and Michael Philippou, to direct a horror feature film, produced and shot on Australian soil. Except that during its presentation at the Cannes Film Market last year, The hand (talk to me in VO) immediately caused a sensation, just like during its world premiere at the Sundance Festival in January 2023. The success is stunning, which is why Universal and A24 fight to seize American rights. It is ultimately the independent firm, which has just triumphed in theaters with Everything Everywhere All at Oncewho pockets the bet.
The film succeeds hands down (!) its bet. Rather than trying to unlock the secret of a tormented teenage youth greedy for excessive sex, the Philippou brothers prefer to show a more down-to-earth generation, caught in the infernal loop of everyday life and looking for putrid distractions to get out of boredom until a hand in plaster, coming from God knows where, comes to distract this crazy youth. No one believes it at first glance, but this hand is indeed imbued with a power: it drastically transforms the person who shakes it, altering their behavior and painting their eyes white. The only immutable rule: it must not be held for more than a certain time, under penalty of remaining stuck indefinitely in a cosmos of hell. As in any good self-respecting horror film, however, things don’t go as planned.
As in the Racka videos, there is no question here of taking things too seriously and explaining the origins of the hand, but rather of playing with a reflexive device around the favorite themes of horror cinema. To achieve this, the Philippou brothers play with the question of the double, in an almost Kafkaesque movement, with adolescents splitting into two upon contact with the hand, becoming creatures indistinguishable from their true bodily envelope. Unacknowledged doubles of themselves, then yielding in spite of themselves to an adolescent and generational panic. At the center of it all, we find Mia, the only truly tormented character (and whose past is truly explored). After the death of her mother during her youth, duality has always been at the center of her life, shared between her father, a lonely man who tries somehow to protect his daughter, and the family of her best friend Jade, whose personal space she invades to the point that we think, at the very beginning of the story, that they are actually two sisters. It is in this precise place that the strength of the film is found: showing the rotten world of adolescence, exposing its heterogeneous loves and troubles, blurring the tracks of relationships and succeeding in moving people by linking all this string of feelings to this plastered hand, a form of outlet for impetuous physical and psychological violence.
Behind this study, The hand installs a climate of terror with three times nothing and jointly succeeds in probing the phenomenon of dependence, with a hand releasing such an addictive power that a sadomasochistic relationship is created with the one who holds it. If the architecture of the narration remains a bit simplistic and the characters lack a bit of depth, it is impossible to sulk one’s pleasure in front of this beautiful object which comes to give a serious boost to a horrific production seriously at half mast.
By Danny and Michael Philippou. With Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen… Duration: 1h34. Released July 26, 2023.