First off, if you haven't seen "T is for Talk," give it a look now. It's only four-ish minutes. Seen it yet? Good. Now let's chat.
This short was one of the many entries for The ABC's of Death anthology film. It was beat out by Lee Hardcastle's T is For Toilet, which is also a fantastic short. Talk, on the other hand, is a nightmare of its own.
We're immediately thrown into the tension. Six people stand in a row, sweating in anticipation of something dreadful soon to come. We don't know who any of these people are, where they are, or why any of this is taking place. We're quick to realize, that they are in fact bound to their standing position, playing a demented game of Red Light Green Light. An intimidating LED sign displays "Talk," and our characters must speak to prolong their fate. Soon, in a moment of pure horror and realization, we come to understand that mistakes are not taken lightly – a mechanism reveals itself and smashes in the heads of those who talk or make noise out of line.
The truth, is that there's little we understand. We don't learn a whole lot about our characters, but we can manage to put ourselves in the situation for a moment, if only because of the execution of the tale.
The machine itself is shown sparingly, and to great effect. We see only a little of the contraption at a time, and to top it off, most of the film we're forced to look at the reactions of the characters. We want to see what's behind this whole setup. Is someone looking in on them, controlling the machinery? Is this some sort of computer AI? We don't know. This is one of the major reasons why the film is so unsettling. We see their reactions, and hardly anything else.
To make things scarier, we also understand that the machine doesn't care. Whether or not you have a family at home, have business to take care of, haven't had sex, the machine only sees you as a thing to be punished. It's also clear that the deaths of our characters are inevitable, and it's only a matter of time before they make a fatal flaw. We cannot function in a consistent way that a machine can, and so the idea of an endurance test only pushes the idea further. Take for example, Stephen King's early novel The Long Walk. Even if you could manage to consistently start and stop talking without repeating yourself, the limits of your body would force you to make a mistake at one point or another. And we can only watch, as the characters meet their fates one at a time.
"T is for Talk" plays off of our fear of untimely death. It's frightening to tempt the idea that our lives might me torn away from us without reason, and before we can achieve our aspirations. The lack of empathy the machine has when taking a life, is also comparable to death in the real world. It can be sudden, without much warning, and leave the people around us in states of horror and sadness.
All of these elements come together to form a story that is disturbing from multiple angles. The monster doesn't care, but you will, and should. And more than anything, Memento mori.