A24 has shaken the horror landscape once again with its latest film, Talk to Me. Directed by Danny and Michael Philippou, this Australian film follows a group of high schoolers who use a mysterious embalmed hand to summon spirits, allowing them to possess their bodies.
It’s a clever premise for a film that puts a spin on the possession subgenre, which has been filled with countless movies that have tried and failed to replicate the terror of The Exorcist. Now that this instant classic is finally in theaters, let’s start from the beginning and talk about Talk to Me.
The protagonist of this film is Mia, who struggles to cope with the passing of her mother, Rhea, which resulted from an overdose of sleeping pills (this is revealed to have been intentional suicide later on). Mia tries to forget her pain on the anniversary of Rhea’s death by going to a house party with her friend Jade, where Mia uses the embalmed hand for the first time. But after touching it, Mia can’t seem to let it go.
The movie is very much a story about the dangers of addiction. The most notable vice in this film is how Mia and her friends frequently use their smartphones to shut themselves off from the people around them. This habit connects with how the characters film and share videos of people and their struggles online for attention, particularly those who use the mystic hand in a supernatural version of the Tide Pod Challenge.
The hand itself embodies addiction, as Mia and her friends get hooked on the thrill of having spirits control their bodies, making it akin to a psychedelic drug. However, Jade’s little brother Riley uses the hand for too long, and a spirit brutally bashes his head in, almost to death. Though Mia and her friends abstain from using the hand, the former is still followed by undead spirits, who sabotage her life and drive her friends away to make her use the hand even more.
Once the possessed Riley wakes up to try and kill himself once more, the spirits make it clear they won’t rest until the boy is dead, which will allow them to claim his soul forever. Despite their best efforts to reach Riley, Mia concludes that there is no way to save him, and Rhea’s spirit urges her to kill Riley to spare him his pain. Nevertheless, the spirits merely trick Mia into doing their bidding by masquerading as her mother and creating illusions, one of which makes Mia accidentally stab her father, Max, in the neck.
The spirits nearly convince Mia to push Riley into oncoming traffic and put him out of his misery, but Mia chooses to take the fall instead and throws herself in front of a car. Though it looks like she survives this fatal plunge, she finds herself teleported to the hospital, where Riley and Max have made a full recovery. She then sees that she has no reflection in a mirror (harkening back to the recurring dream she mentions earlier in the film). And as everything goes dark and her loved ones fail to hear her, it becomes clear that Mia has died, shutting herself off from the world forever.
With Mia’s suicide reflecting how her mother took her own life, Talk To Me cements itself as a tale about the dangerous and cyclical nature of depression. The way the spirits endlessly torment Riley reflects how people with depression deal with feelings of hopelessness every day, which can lead them to believe that death is the only escape. Rhea expresses this same reasoning in the suicide note she leaves for her family, hoping to give them solace. Nevertheless, her death only hurts them even more, inadvertently leading to Mia suffering the same fate.
But in the darkness of the afterlife, Mia sees a single candle shining bright. Approaching it, she finds a hand stretched out and touches it. She then comes face-to-face with a man in Greece, who uses the embalmed hand to summon her just like she and her friends did in another online challenge. This story thus comes full circle, with Mia becoming another spirit for the living to reach out to for their amusement.
It’s a tragic fate for such a promising young woman, but who knows what the future holds for Mia? Perhaps she will reach out to the people who use the hand to warn them about the spirits who haunted her and her loved ones. There is still so much to explore in this film, with the origins of the hand and its version of the spirit world remaining a mystery.
- A Haunting in Venice’s ending, explained
- My Animal director on making a perfect 2023 horror movie and meditating with David Lynch
- 5 best horror movies of 2023 so far
- 5 Dwayne Johnson movies you need to watch in August
- 5 sci-fi movies on Netflix that need to be seen right now