Warning: This post contains spoilers for Talk to Me.
In Talk to Me, the latest buzzy horror film from A24, spiritual possession becomes a dangerous new high that a group of teens can't stop chasing—to their own undoing.
At the center of the group is 17-year-old Mia (Sophie Wilde), whose mother passed away a year ago to the day that the movie begins. In her mother's absence, Mia has turned to her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade's younger brother Riley (Joe Bird), and their mother Sue (Miranda Otto) as a surrogate family rather than try to bridge the distance that's formed between her and her father (Marcus Johnson).
Directed by Australian filmmaking brothers and RackaRacka YouTube creators Danny and Michael Philippou, Talk to Me follows Mia as she descends into a grief-fueled madness brought on by her desire to escape her own reality.
The high of the hand
Following a chilling cold open, the movie gets underway on Mia's mother's remembrance day. That evening, as Mia's father attempts to coax a conversation out of her, Mia gratefully takes a call from Riley and agrees to come pick him up from the park. As the two drive back to Riley's house scream-singing along to Sia's "Chandelier," they suddenly happen upon a mortally injured kangaroo slowly dying on the road ahead of them. Riley urges Mia to run over the kangaroo and put it out of its misery, but at the last second she slams on the brakes and swerves around it, leaving it to suffer and foreshadowing much of what's to come later in the film.
At Riley and Jade's house, Mia shows Jade a video circulating on social media of some of their classmates grabbing hold of a white ceramic hand and appearing to be possessed by spirits that are conjured from it. Jade insists it's fake, but Mia is eager to find out for herself.
At a party later that night, Mia is the first to volunteer to take hold of the hand—which is said to be the embalmed, severed appendage of a dead medium—and invite in one of the spirits. Their classmate Hayley (Zoe Terakes), one of the keepers of the hand, explains the rules: Light a candle, clasp the hand, speak the words "talk to me," and invite the spirit in. But don't leave the door to the spirit world open for more than 90 seconds or else "they'll want to stay."
Oh, and if you die with a spirit inside your body, your soul will be lost forever in limbo with the rest of the spirits trapped in the hand.
Mia performs the ritual and experiences the unmatched high of possession for the first time, channeling a spirit that takes a particular interest in Riley. But when Joss (Chris Alosio), the hand's other keeper, tries to pry it away from Mia as the clock approaches 90 seconds, the spirit resists and time goes over. The group is eventually able to rip the hand from Mia's grasp and she jubilantly emerges from her otherworldly trance.
"They'll want to stay"
Mia broke the rules—and now must face the consequences. At the next group get-together, everyone takes turns getting high on the thrill of the hand and filming the ghostly encounters for social media. Riley eventually begs for a turn but Jade forbids it before leaving the room. With Jade gone, Mia gives in and says that Riley can try it out, but only for 60 seconds.
The spirit enters Riley and begins talking to Mia as if it's her late mother, leading Mia to let the possession go on for much longer than 90 seconds. Suddenly, something shifts and Riley begins violently slamming his head onto the table in front of him. As the others fight to wrestle the hand from him, he reaches up and tries to pull out his own eyeball before flying across the room. Jade rushes back in just in time to throw her hand in between Riley's head and the side of the desk on which the spirit is attempting to deliver the killing blow. They finally get the hand away and call emergency services.
How it all ends
With Riley catatonic and near death in the hospital, Mia begins experiencing increasingly terrifying encounters with the dead. To make matters worse, every time Riley comes to, the spirits take hold and try to kill him so they can claim him forever.
Mia has the idea to try to close the door on Riley's behalf by lighting the candle, placing the hand in Riley's, saying "talk to him," and then blowing out the candle on her own. When this doesn't seem to work, Mia asks a spirit to show her the spirit world, where she sees Riley being endlessly tortured by a gruesome, churning mass of lost souls.
Mia also uses the hand on her own to try to talk to her mom, who died after taking too many sleeping pills. When Mia's dad found her mom's body, she had been clawing at their bedroom door trying to get help, leading Mia to believe that her mom didn't commit suicide and instead took too many pills accidentally. The evil spirit pretending to be her mom tells her that she's right about her not committing suicide and that if Riley dies, she will take care of him on the other side instead of letting him suffer how he is currently.
Mia's father eventually ends up showing her her mom's suicide note, which he'd been hiding from her in an attempt to protect her. But the spirit impersonating her mom convinces her that her dad is actually one of the evil spirits trying to harm her and Mia stabs him.
She then heads to the hospital where, after tricking Jade and Sue into leaving her alone with Riley, she puts him in a wheelchair and wheels him to nearby highway. As her evil spirit mom tries to goad her into throwing Riley into oncoming traffic, Mia finally snaps out of it and instead launches herself in front of a speeding car.
When Mia comes to, she's standing amid the wreckage on the highway before suddenly being transported to the hospital. She watches as her dad and Riley, both now healed, leave the hospital, but is unable to communicate with them. Suddenly, a tunnel of light appears before her and she follows it, only to find herself gripping the hand of a member of a new group trying to conjure spirits through the embalmed hand.
The movie ends with Mia seemingly forever trapped among the lost souls contained in the hand.
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