HomeMovies'Talk to Me' is This Weekend's Second Best Ghost Movie

‘Talk to Me’ is This Weekend’s Second Best Ghost Movie

Joe Bird in A24's TALK TO ME.
Photo Courtesy A24 Films.

Though we’re nowhere near Halloween, two movies opening this weekend use ghosts to explore grief. The first is Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, the Mouse House’s second attempt to adapt one of their best rides. The second is Talk to Me, an Australian, elevated horror from A24. Where the first film is fun and spooky, the latter is dark and gory with the occasional unexpected laugh. However, it’s the latter film that comes off a bit corny.

Talk to Me follows Sophia Wilde’s Mia, a girl still grieving after her mother died of an alleged accidental overdose a few years prior. Desperate for answers, Mia joins her friends in using the preserved hand of a deceased medium to talk to spirits, allowing them to possess their bodies for no more than 90 seconds, lest the spirits try to stay. 

For a while, these possession parties are mostly fun and games. Sure, the first spirit to possess Mia warns her best friend Jade’s (Alexandra Jensen) little brother, Riley (Joe Bird), that one of the meaner spirits is after him and Daniel (Otis Dhanji)—aka Jade’s current beau and Riley’s ex—is possessed by a horny ghost who spills all his secrets, but the kids are too busy laughing at their friends being thrown around the room to be afraid. That is, until things get violent.

Like the ghosts themselves, directors Michael and Danny Philippou lull the audience into thinking these possessions won’t go any further than mildly creepy. They quickly and deftly establish the rules of their world both in throwaway bits of dialogue and scenes of the kids laughing even as their friends’ eyes go black and they start yelling in demonic tones. Sure, everytime a kid is possessed, the sound is heightened, the score becomes menacing and the kids’ bodies contort in unnatural ways, but they’re also always safe afterwards and both we and the children are left laughing more often than not.

That’s precisely why it’s so shocking when Talk to Me delivers on its premise. After a certain point, the film is decidedly darker, constantly escalating both the surprises and horrors as it goes. As Mia begins to see ghosts even when not using the hand, her behavior becomes more erratic and both she and we are driven to question how benevolent these possessions really are as the movie hurtles toward its inevitable climax.

In its tension, the film recalls another A24 release, 2018’s Hereditary. Scenes where Mia wakes from a terrifying yet undeniably strange dream involving Daniel or feels drawn to use the hand again and again to try to contact her mother are chilling and will keep audiences spellbound with fear. Still, while not even some genuinely daring choices in Danny Philippou and Bill Hinzman’s script can match the mind-blowing twists of Ari Aster’s film, both films suffer from the same fatal flaw. Namely, they over-explain their premises, devolving into endings that render the whole movie a little corny.

That said, not every viewer is going to be disappointed. Some people love Hereditary without reservation. Likewise, many will love Talk to Me’s creeping dread and willingness to follow through on the terrifying and violent promises it makes. It’s a fun summer popcorn flick. But it’s one of too many recent horror movies that use the paranormal to explore how people process grief and the second coming out this very weekend. Sure, it’s scary, but it won’t haunt us for long.

Talk to Me is now playing in theaters.

Marisa Carpico
Marisa Carpico
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.

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