Talk to Me is a supernatural horror film that is genuinely unique from most modern works of the genre because of its very interesting base concept and convincing performances and filmmaking. The plot follows a group of young friends in Australia who have found a strange technique to let the spirits of dead people enter their bodies and take control of them. While teenagers mostly use this technique to have fun and gain social currency, things get out of hand when one such session goes extremely wrong. Overall, Talk to Me is great to watch and definitely more enjoyable than most modern horror flicks.
Plot Summary: What is the film about?
Set in Australia in modern times, Talk to Me is centered around a young woman named Mia, who is unsettled by something from the very beginning of the film. It is soon revealed that the girl, just seventeen, had lost her mother very suddenly and unexpectedly one night, when she seemed to have passed away due to a drug overdose. Although it has already been two years since this death, Mia is still evidently grieving tremendously over the incident, and she has still not been able to get over the tragic loss. She doesn’t many friends and family around and therefore like to spend her time with her best friend, Jade. It is also revealed to us that Mia is very close to Jade’s younger brother, Riley.
Since the siblings’ mother, Sue, is a single parent working hard to keep their family afloat, the two are mostly by themselves, and Jade often forgets to pick her brother up. It is Mia who Riley contacts during these times of emergency, and we are made witnesses to one such time as well. However, something uncanny takes place on the road as Mia and Riley come across a severely injured and dying kangaroo. Despite Riley’s opinion that they should run over the animal and put it out of its misery, Mia is unable to bring herself to do such a thing.
Later that night, Mia, Jade, and Riley go over to a friend’s place, where a certain kind of secret party is being held. The teenagers in the small Australian town had recently gotten hold of a strange object—a human hand encased in plaster or ceramic, which sticks out as if waiting to be grasped by someone. When a participant, who has to be tied down to a chair, holds the hand and utters the words “talk to me,” they can immediately see a dead person in the room. With a further request of “I let you in,” the spirit of the dead person then enters the body of the participant and takes full control of them. The teenagers running this whole affair are cautious about letting the possession run only for ninety seconds, and all the youngsters take this whole matter as a fancy new drug-like indulgence to post about on their social media. However, none of them are aware of the deadly possibilities associated with this mysterious hand, which soon results in terror and chaos.
What do we know about the mysterious severed hand?
As Mia and her friends start to visit more of these séance parties, we get to witness more about the whole process. The act begins with a candle being lit and a hand being grasped, which essentially opens up a portal to the world of the dead and lets out a dead person to be seen by the participant. Among the teenagers are two individuals, Hayley and Joss, who seem expert about the process, and they are also the ones to own the severed hand. It is these two who decide whether one can take the thrilling experience of seeing ghosts using the hand, and it is also they who state the rules to the others.
When the possession finally begins, and the participant allows the spirit to enter their body, there are different things that happen with different participants, and this evidently depends on the spirit that enters them. While all have convulsions and fits, because the spirit wants to break free of the binds inside the physical body that it now has at its disposal, some are more violent and rigorous than the others. There are also instances when it seems like the ghosts can read the minds of the bodies they take control of and then reveal their darkest secrets to others.
This particularly happens when Daniel uses the hand and lets himself be controlled by the spirit. Daniel is the current boyfriend of Jade and is also the ex of Mia. Despite Jade’s claim that Daniel and Mia’s childhood romance was of no significance, there is clearly a deep-rooted attraction between the two even at present. This becomes all the more evident when the ghost in control of Daniel states that the young man does not like being touched by Jade while he still feels physically attracted to Mia. It is probably because of this that Daniel has told Jade that he does not want to get physical with her and has given the excuse of having religious reservations against premarital sex.
A very brief history of the hand is also provided, in which we learn that Joss, to whom it actually belongs, found it at a party. The hand had apparently belonged to a medium who often communicated between the worlds of the living and the dead, and after their death, their hand had been cut off and plastered to serve as a device of communication. In this regard, it should be mentioned that the way this plastered hand looks is really closer to something from an urban legend than a creepy horror story.
Before Joss, the hand belonged to a teenager named Duckett, who very readily gave it to Joss when the latter asked to borrow it after seeing the artifact work charms at parties. Duckett had claimed that he was able to see dead people even without the procedure of grasping the hand, and it was mainly for this reason that he wanted to get rid of the object. However, his plan did not work since Duckett completely lost control over himself mentally and stabbed his brother at a party before stabbing himself to death. In fact, it is this bloody scene with which Talk to Me originally begins as we watch Duckett carry out the horrific act, which he committed shortly after giving away the hand to Joss.
The friends eventually meet with Duckett’s brother as well in an effort to help Riley, but the meeting does not provide any important information. Instead, Mia now suspects that they must have left the door to the world of the dead open, for it was just as necessary to blow out the candle at the end of the procedure, along with leaving the grasp of the ceramic-coated hand, in order to complete the procedure. Otherwise, she believes, the dead spirits come into our real world and continue to stay there.
Why does Riley get possessed?
When Riley first witnesses the whole shenanigan with the severed hand, he is evidently very scared but also immediately interested in the matter. Finally, later on, when the séance takes place at their own house, he nags the elders to let him use it. Although Jade does not allow her brother to participate, Mia does grant his wish, and the decided time for him is fifty seconds instead of the normal ninety. But the trouble begins when Riley is possessed by the spirit of Mia’s mother, Rhea, and she immediately starts talking directly to Mia. While she and the others are surprised and engrossed by this, sheer violence occurs with Riley’s body as he is tossed and pushed around by the spirit and then brutally assaulted, which leads to the police being called and the boy being hospitalized.
In the chaos and frenzy of the moment, the teenagers had forgotten to shut off the portal gates by blowing out the candle after the stipulated fifty seconds or even the ninety-second mark. Initially, it seems like this is the reason that Riley gets so horribly possessed, and then the other spirits make their way into the human world. However, matters in Talk to Me are much more complicated, albeit subtly, than this, and most of it is kept very intentionally unclear. After Riley is hospitalized, Mia starts to see and feel spirits around her, and she also sees her mother, who even talks to her. However, Mia had not really been possessed beyond the stipulated duration during any of her sessions with the severed hand. Therefore, she is not supposed to be haunted by these spirits since nobody else among the friends is seeing them either.
There is also the matter that even before Riley tries the séance, there is a scene in which Mia reaches out to touch sleeping Riley’s hair, but the hand seen is that of a ghostly monster and not of any human. Perhaps it was actually Mia who had somehow opened up the portal gates and enabled some of the spirits to stay back, and the attack on Riley was the effect of this cause, rather than being a cause itself. Or, it could also be that Rhea comes to talk with Mia through the body of Riley because of the very close bond that the boy and the teenage girl share. In many instances, Mia is almost like an elder sister or mother figure to Riley, and this was maybe the reason why Rhea chose the boy, so that her daughter would believe her. A third possibility can also be that something otherworldly had already cast its shadow on both Mia and Riley when the two came across the dying kangaroo on the road. After all, we do see the bleeding kangaroo once more in the hospital towards the end, and while it then seems part of Mia’s hallucination, the animal could also be more symbolic than it originally looks like.
What had happened with Mia’s mother?
The story behind the death of Mia’s mother is also equally mysterious, for the woman had supposedly committed suicide. One night, Rhea had apparently taken too many sleeping pills by accident and ultimately succumbed by morning due to the effects of the pills. The woman had tried all she could to inform the others in the house and save herself, violently clawing at the door and trying to open it. But Mia’s father, Max, had been sleeping on the couch and could not hear any of these noises at night. It was in the morning that he discovered what had happened, and since then, his and Mia’s relationship has terribly soured as well. While Max mostly keeps to himself about his feelings and emotions, Mia finds her father too depressing and, therefore, stays away from him and their house as much as possible.
Later on in Talk to Me, Max even reads a letter to Mia that Rhea had left behind before the incident, and it does seem like a clear case of suicide. However, when Rhea’s spirit starts to appear to her daughter, both through Riley and then in her own form, she keeps stating that she had not committed suicide and that Max was not who he was pretending to be. The spirit never really says what happened with her, though, and she suspiciously keeps diverting Mia’s attention towards other things.
The father-pretending-to-be-someone-else part of the claim does take a literal turn during the latter parts of the film, when the evil spirits, now pouring in from the world of the dead, try to lure Mia by taking the form of Max. It is not clear as to why the spirits want to kill Mia either, and over time, the spirit of Rhea genuinely seems very evil.
Despite the teenagers believing that they know all about how to contain the world of the dead and the spirits, there is a real suggestion in Talk to Me that the spirits are much more powerful than humans. While some of the teenagers believe that the spirits want to return to the mortal world in order to get back to life, it increasingly seems like the spirits want to return only to cause violence, bloodshed, and torture among the living humans. This is why Riley is literally tortured by the spirits, as seen by Mia when she goes over to the ghost world for a few seconds. Therefore, it also seems like the spirit of Rhea has lost all sentiments of motherhood and is now only a conniving spirit whose main intention is to create pain and death for humans. It is she who indirectly leads to Mia stabbing her father, and it is also Rhea who gives Mia the horrible plan of killing Riley in order to relieve him of his pain.
What happens to Riley and Mia in the end?
Convinced by her dead mother’s words, Mia goes over to the hospital to somehow kill Riley, for she genuinely believes that this is the only way to relieve the boy’s pain. This cannot be completely disregarded either, since whenever Riley was gaining consciousness, he was trying to kill himself in the hospital, under the control of the spirits. Mia ultimately takes the boy away from the hospital and to the nearby highway, where she intends to throw him in front of heavy oncoming traffic.
However, as things turn out, it is Mia who ends up on the road instead of Riley, and this is most probably because Jade comes to her brother’s rescue at the last moment and pushes Mia down instead. Mia then finds herself inside the hospital, but she cannot interact with anyone. Riley’s condition improves after this incident, and this is because Mia has died, which is evident from the fact that she no longer has a shadow in the mirror. Talk to Me‘s ending shows a different group of men, possibly in a different part of the world, using the plastered severed hand and calling upon ghosts when Mia appears in front of them, since she is now only a spirit from the world of the dead.
In the end, Talk to Me seems to be a mix of supernatural and psychological to me, since ghosts definitely exist in the film’s world. However, it is also Mia’s inability to get over her mother’s sudden death that pushes her towards various untoward decisions. There is never a proper reason to believe that Rhea died in any way different from what is stated by her husband, but Mia is unable to accept this truth. Instead, in her desire to uncover a non-existent mystery, the girl gets lured by evil spirits, attempts to kill, and then ultimately loses her own life.