A24 horror film ‘Talk to Me’ speaks volumes

In the foreground, Joss, Zoe and Mia excitedly look at the outstretched embalmed hand. As Joss lights the candle, Daniei, seated behing Mia, prepares to use the hand as a conduit to the spirits. // Photo courtesy of A24

A24 Films, the company best known for emotional and visually stunning films such as “Lady Bird” and “Midsommar,” delivers again with its newest horror film “Talk to Me.” 

The film follows Mia (Sophie Wilde, “Tom Jones”), her best friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen, “Amazing Grace”) and Jade’s little brother Riley (Joe Bird, “Rabbit”) as they come into contact with a supernatural relic in the form of a hand. The hand serves as a modern take on the Ouija board with our protagonists first discovering its existence through a Snapchat of a party. 

In the Snapchat clip, we see the hand used as a party trick, with the teenagers taking turns grasping it to commune with the dead. Our protagonists initially think it’s nothing more than a prank, some clever use of a filter, but after experiencing it firsthand, they quickly become believers and try out the relic for themselves. However, in typical horror movie fashion, things quickly spiral out of control. 

After discovering the adrenaline rush of continuously risking their life to touch the supernatural, the group of teenagers quickly gain an addiction to using the hand. 

As they continue to push the limits of what they can do with this supernatural bridge, everything reaches its breaking point when Riley, against his sister’s wishes, grasps the hand and starts on a journey into the darkness that leaves the audience wondering if he may ever come back.

Their descent into madness takes place against the backdrop of a richly interwoven story of grief, suicide and mercy. We watch Mia try and fail to grapple with her mother’s apparent suicide and see the long-reaching impacts of grief bubble up throughout the movie in unexpected ways. When she is faced with the choice of putting an injured kangaroo out of its misery, she is unable to, leaving it to fester in pain rather than end it. Similarly, throughout the film, we see Mia’s refusal to accept her mother’s death lead to her hurting everyone she loves. 

Without giving away too many of the surprises of the film, “Talk to Me” takes viewers on a disgustingly gory exploration of pain, grief and what mercy really means. It brings a fresh new face to horror, stepping away from the tried and true stories of hauntings, Ouija boards and witches. Instead, we watch a familiar story of teenage recklessness retold in the era of social media. 

While A24 did not disappoint with the visuals or the general theming, the pacing of the story left something to be desired. With an immensely long build-up, the entire plot is resolved within the last few minutes, leaving viewers unsatisfied and with more questions than answers.

However, the movie is apparently scheduled for a sequel with the same directors, so the cliffhanger may have been intentional. Whether it was or not, the lackluster ending does not detract from the solid story, captivating soundtrack and engaging characters that “Talk to Me” delivers.