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Talk to Me might be the creepiest horror movie of 2023. Directed by Australian brothers Danny and Michael Philippou, Talk to Me is a supernatural horror film that best fits into the “possession” subgenre, though that barely begins to describe the unique spin on the format that the movie provides. Read on to learn exactly what Talk to Me is about and how it ends, along with some of the lingering questions you might have been left with after watching.
What is Talk to Me About?
Talk to Me is about a young Australian woman named Mia. Mia’s mother committed suicide two years prior to the beginning of the movie, and the anniversary of her mother’s death is causing Mia to feel particularly isolated and vulnerable. Mia has few real friends, and most people her age shun her because they think she’s weird. Even Mia’s best friend Jade appears to be emotionally distant from her.
Mia convinces Jade to go with her to a party. Mia feels out of place at the party, but she goes because she wants to play a party game she’s seen in videos posted by people she and Jade know. The videos each show a single person acting bizarrely while everyone around them laughs. The game is actually a kind of seance involving what is said to be an embalmed severed hand. Mia volunteers to play, not believing the game is real. It is real though, and Mia briefly becomes possessed after seeing a spirit in front of her. Mia acts oddly and says some frightening things, but she comes out of the trance and appears to be okay.
Mia is not okay though, and over the next few days she has an increasingly terrifying series of experiences whether she’s using the severed hand to conjure spirits or not. Someone close to Mia is also affected by the hand, sending Mia down a very dark path as she tries to make things right. At the same time, she attempts to find ways to use the hand and its connection to spirits to finally deal with the lingering grief of her mother’s death.
Talk to Me Ending Explained
Caution: This section contains major spoilers for Talk to Me. The following paragraphs describe the important events leading up to the movie’s finale, and relevant explanations for those events are contained in the boxes.
During a gathering at Jade’s house, Jade’s younger brother Riley uses the hand. Riley is possessed by a spirit that claims to be Mia’s mother, and Mia’s reluctance to let her mother go allows the seance to go on for too long. Spirits take control of Riley and force him to repeatedly smash his head against objects and attempt to pull out his own eye. Riley survives but is taken to a hospital in critical condition.
Mia, who has used the hand multiple times by this point, begins seeing spirits without having to perform the seance. Most often, Mia begins seeing the spirit of her mother Rhea. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Riley is still possessed while in the hospital, and any time he wakes up he tries to kill himself. The ghost of Rhea tells Mia that Riley is in danger, eventually convincing Mia that she needs to kill Riley in order to free him from the spiritual torment he is in.
Rhea also tells her daughter Mia that she didn’t mean to commit suicide. Afterward, Mia’s father reads to her the suicide note left by her mother, a note he previously hid from Mia to spare her from further heartache. The note indicates that Rhea did intend to kill herself, and that she was sorry. Mia believes the spirit of her mother rather than the note, and, in a state of confusion caused by Mia seeing a vision of her father coming at her violently, Mia stabs her father in the neck with a pair of scissors. With her mental state completely unstable, Mia decides to save Riley’s soul by killing his body.
Mia tricks Riley’s mother and sister into leaving Riley’s hospital room, and she takes the boy out of the hospital in a wheelchair. Mia can’t bring herself to physically stab Riley and kill him, so her plan is to wheel him into oncoming traffic at a blind turn in a nearby road. Mia wheels him to the edge of the road, but she hesitates. Then, from a point of view inside a car, there is a crash. When we are shown what happened, Mia is lying in the road after being hit by a car, and Riley’s sister Jade is holding him safely in the grass beside the street.
Mia wakes and stands up in the street. Her body shows grievous injuries from being hit by a car, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She looks around, but she finds that she’s now back in the hospital. Mia sees Jade, Riley, and their mother happily leaving the hospital with Riley apparently completely healed and free of possession. Mia then sees her father who also appears to have survived his wound. Mia tries to catch up to her father, but he walks away without reacting to her calls. Then everything goes dark. Mia sees the light of a candle and an outstretched hand. A young man appears before Mia, and Mia realizes she is now a spirit being conjured by the same game she messed around with earlier.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the rules of the game with the embalmed hand?
The “game” is really a seance. The seance is performed by first lighting a candle to “open the door” to the spirit world. The person chosen to play then holds the embalmed severed hand in a position like they’re shaking hands. They say “talk to me,” and a spirit will appear in front of them, though the spirit is invisible to everyone else. When the person says “I let you in,” that gives the spirit permission to possess their body. Once possession begins, a timer is started for 90 seconds. Before the 90 seconds are up, the candle is blown out which closes the door to the other world and ends the possession.
Why is there a time limit of 90 seconds for possession during the game?
Joss says that 90 seconds is what he was told by the person who gave him the hand. Hayley says that if you are possessed for more than 90 seconds, then the spirits might not want to leave. Though Joss and Hayley are both repeating second-hand information, the time limit appears to be true. Mia and Riley are both possessed for longer than 90 seconds, and they both have trouble getting rid of the spirit even after the end of the seance.
Why did Mia keep using the embalmed hand?
When Mia first uses the hand, she finds the experience exhilarating. Perhaps this is because she feels alone, and tapping into the spirit world makes her feel connected to something she is missing. At first, Mia just wanted to recreate the feeling of exhilaration. After Riley uses the hand and apparently contacts Mia’s mother, Mia uses the hand to try to contact her mother as well. She is also looking for information about how to help Riley. However, using the hand repeatedly allows the spirits to retain a firm grip on Mia.
Why do people enjoy being possessed?
The movie presents the experience of being possessed kind of like a drug. Mia describes the experience of her first possession in a way that sounds like people describing pleasurable drug experiences. Even people who have a bad time during their first possession, like Daniel, want to do it again and again. It’s an addictive experience. Also, certain drugs can dilate people’s pupils, and the eyes of people who are possessed are nearly completely black. The black eyes might be a visual allusion to drug use.
Was Mia possessed the whole time?
Yes, in a way Mia was possessed from the time she first played the game. She went over the 90 second time limit, and that allowed the spirit of a woman to remain with her. However, the possession didn’t always manifest as the spirit controlling Mia’s body. Occasionally it did control Mia, like when she thought she saw a ghost sucking Daniel’s toes, but Daniel saw Mia doing it instead. The audience is shown Mia’s possession mostly from her own subjective point of view, so it doesn’t always appear as if she’s possessed. In fact, it might be more accurate to say the spirit was always with Mia, even though it wasn’t always controlling her.
How do you get rid of lingering spirits?
Though there are theories stated in the movie, it is never made explicit how someone who uses the hand is supposed to remove spirits that remain attached to people. The best theory is that over time the spirit’s connection to this world weakens, eventually sending them away as a possessed person regains control of their body.
How did Riley get rid of the spirit possessing him?
The idea that a spirit’s grip weakens over time seems to be supported by Riley’s recovery. Mia tried to drive the spirit away by recreating the seance and blowing out the candle, but it’s not clear if that helped. It might have helped, but we can’t be sure. Instead, we see a time jump at the end of the movie in which Riley’s body is healed and he looks to be free of the spirit’s grasp. The spirits may have greater strength over vulnerable people, whether that vulnerability is mental or physical.
Where did the severed hand come from?
No one really knows the origin of the hand. In the movie, someone says it’s the embalmed hand of a medium who could contact spirits. That story and others function more like urban legends than facts. No one really knows where the hand came from. Joss got it from from someone else (who we see die at the beginning of the movie), but where the hand was before that is anyone’s guess.
Is the hand really an embalmed hand?
Everything about the hand and the seance it’s used in is speculation. The hand itself is some kind of ceramic. Joss says it is a real hand encased in a ceramic shell, but it’s never revealed if that is true. Ultimately, the makeup of the hand is less important than what it represents and what it does.
The Cast and Characters of Talk to Me
Sophie Wilde as Mia
Mia is a seventeen year old woman who feels alone all the time. The person she was closest with, her mother, is dead, and she has a difficult time connecting with other people. She feels invisible most of the time, and connecting to spirits through the use of the embalmed hand is alluring to her at first.
Alexandra Jensen as Jade
Jade is Mia’s best friend. After Mia’s mother died, Mia spent a lot of time with Jade and her family. Jade has grown distant from Mia in that time, and at times she seems to resent Mia’s increased presence in her life even though she does still care for her friend. Jade is more interested in spending time with her boyfriend Daniel, and that becomes a source of tension between best friends.
Joe Bird as Riley
Riley is Jade’s younger brother. Riley is closer to Mia than he is to Jade, and he considers Mia to be his sister. Riley is reserved and sensitive, but his friendship with a boy who acts like a delinquent pushes Riley to do things he probably shouldn’t.
- Miranda Otto as Sue – Sue is the mother of Jade and Riley. She can be a strict mother, but she is also permissive to a point. She welcomed Mia into their family after Mia’s mom passed away.
- Otis Dhanji as Daniel – Daniel is Jade’s boyfriend. Daniel and Mia used to be close, though Mia’s feelings for Daniel are stronger than Daniel’s for Mia.
- Zeo Terakes as Hayley – Hayley is one of the two people in control of the seances using the embalmed hand.
- Chris Alosio as Joss – Joss, who is friends with Hayley, is the person who owns the embalmed hand.
- Marcus Johnson as Max – Max is Mia’s father. He has had a difficult time connecting with his daughter emotionally since Mia’s mother died.
- Alexandria Steffensen as Rhea – Rhea is Mia’s mother. She was very close with Mia, but she committed suicide prior to the beginning of the film.