A24 has done it again with their newest horror film Talk to Me. And by “it”, I mean they have delivered another dark, extremely effective genre movie that left me feeling like I had been punched in the stomach, and will stay on my mind for the next few days at least.
I know a lot of horror fans don’t care for A24’s so-called “elevated” scary films, claiming they are too slow or boring, but I am 100% NOT one of them. Slow burns are exactly what I look for when I am in the mood to watch a movie that is truly frightening. These films aren’t always fast-moving, and they are rarely comedic in any way, relying instead on themes of grief and trauma to pull viewers into the story.
If you don’t know what films I am talking about, A24 is also responsible for Hereditary, Midsommar and The Witch. While Talk to Me is not at all slow-moving (at least in my opinion), it does put us in the shoes of teenager Mia, who is grieving the loss of her mother to suicide.
On the one-year anniversary of her mom’s death, Mia goes to a party with her best friend Jade and Jade’s 14-year-old brother Riley. Of course, there are several other teens at the party as well, including Jade’s boyfriend Daniel, who happens to also be Mia’s childhood crush. Also present are Hayley and Joss, who have brought a very interesting object to the party.
The two are in possession of a creepy embalmed hand, and the newest trend among those brave enough to try it is to light a candle, grip the hand and say, “Talk to me.” After that, you are instructed to invite the spirit inside you, and for the next 90 seconds, you will be possessed. But, 90 seconds is the cutoff, because after that, the spirit will not leave your body. At that point, the candle must be blown out to close the spiritual door, and you have to let go of the hand…if it will let you.
Of course, this ritual is recorded by all of your friends on their phones, then posted on social media. Trying to fit in and not be the “weird” kid at the party, Mia agrees to perform the ritual, and this is where the movie takes a turn from being just a bunch of dumb kids acting obnoxious and becomes real horror.
We see what Mia sees: a horrifying entity. We also see her body contort and her eyes turn demonic-looking. But, the experience is also apparently exhilarating, and Mia can’t wait to try it again. At first, my adult self was thinking, “What fool would do this after seeing their friends look like something out of a Sam Raimi film?” But then it hit me: This is the kind of thing today’s teens revel in. Social media trends, no matter how stupid and dangerous, are something all the cool kids want to participate in.
The next night, another party is held, this time at Jade’s house. And this time, something terrible happens. While several of the friends take part in the “talk to me” ritual, and have a great time, the fun ends when young Riley begs for a turn. When he is possessed, he begins talking to Mia, channeling her dead mother.
I won’t give away what happens from there, but things get shockingly brutal and violent, and Mia has to figure out a way to make things right.
Talk to Me was directed by brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, with Danny also co-writing. You may know the brothers from their controversial YouTube channel, RackaRacka, and their experience with social media may be what makes this film so effective.
It’s a strong cast overall, with Sophie Wilde as Mia, who is a frustrating character at times, but you still sympathize because of her grief over losing her mother. Alexandra Jensen is Jade, and Joe Bird excels as Riley. Also great are Miranda Otto, who plays Jade and Riley’s overprotective mother, Marcus Johnson as Mia’s father, and Zoe Terakes as the obnoxious Hayley. I have to also give mad props to the excellent and very unsettling special effects.
I will give you a very small spoiler, because I know many people are sensitive to the plight of animals in horror movies. There is a scene in the beginning of the film where Mia and Riley come across a kangaroo on the highway that has been hit by a car. It is grievously injured, but not dead, so it’s a hard scene to watch. Jade also owns an adorable super-chunky dog, but don’t worry, nothing happens there. I will admit I was concerned due to the small scene featuring the dog in the film’s trailer.
Obviously, I 100% loved Talk to Me, so I recommend seeing it in a theater. But, don’t expect a fun, light-hearted flick, it’s pretty brutal and very dark. I turned to my friend about halfway through, and whispered, “This is very distressing.” And that’s probably the most accurate description of my feelings while watching the story play out.