Saturday, November 25, 2023

Give 'Em a Hand

Film: Talk to Me
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Every time it feels like I’m going to get back into blogging more regularly, life seems to happen, and sadly I don’t see this changing until the start of next year. I’ve had Talk to Me recommended to me several times, and I had it sitting on a table for more than a week before I finally got the chance to watch it. Seeing it, I’m starting to wonder some things about my movie watching. Talk to Me is very much everything you likely want in a horror movie, and yet there was something about it that left me very much wanting.

What this has done, though, is given my some perspective on the horror genre, something that I am embarrassed to say has taken me until now to realize. Many, many horror movies deal with younger protagonists and friend groups. I always assumed at least at some level that this was because horror movies are often seen as kids’ fare, the sort of movies that are made to appeal to teens and 20-somethings. This gives the intended audience protagonist that they can feel connected to, and this is almost certainly a part of the truth. However, upon watching Talk to Me, I have realized another truth about character age in this genre: younger people are often used in these movies because many of them require the characters to make decisions that are clearly wrong, and that would clearly not be made by someone with even a little experience at life.

After an opening scene that involves someone stabbing another person in the shoulder before stabbing himself in the face (setting the stakes), we dive into the movie proper. We are introduced to Mia (Sophie Wilde), a young woman who is dealing with the suicide death of her mother and a distant relationship with her father. Rather than actual handle these issues, she spends most of her time with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade’s younger brother Riley (Joe Bird). While they don’t get into a lot of trouble, they do tend to sneak out to parties hosted by Hayley and Joss (Zoe Terakes and Chris Alosio).

The latest feature at the parties is an embalmed hand. Hayley and Joss are assured that this is the severed hand of a medium. Anyone grasping the hand and saying “Talk to me” will see the spirit of a dead person. Saying the words “I let you in” allows that spirit to possess the person. They are careful to let the possession happen for less than 90 seconds, blowing out a candle to sever the connection, lest the possession become permanent.

So with that setup, you can see where this is going to go, because there’s really only one place for it to go. The only question is who is going to be the lucky person possessed. It’s not a shock when Mia’s first possession goes just a little bit long, but everything seems to be fine. No, it’s when Riley convinces them to let him have a try that things go pear-shaped. He is possessed, and it is soon apparent that the possession is actually Mia’s dead mother. Naturally, Mia doesn’t want to sever the connection, so it goes on far too long and Riley starts trying to kill himself very violently, and thing soon spiral even more and more out of control.

Essentially, this is what I meant at the top. You have to have protagonists aged between about 14 and 17 for this film to work (those are roughly the ages of Riley and Mia respectively). The moment Mia says that she wants to talk longer to the spirit possessing Riley, someone should have had the sense to say “no” and blow out the candle as they had agreed. Since they agreed to 50 seconds for Riley, even giving her an extra 10 or 20 seconds would be more than safe and under the 90-second time limit. But we have to have this go badly at some point for the movie to work. Put this embalmed hand in the possession of people in their 20s and you’re going to have to figure out a completely different way to get things to go badly for everyone.

This is, honestly, where Talk to Me fails a bit. No one in the room had the wherewithal to blow out the candle at 80 seconds in? No one? I know this is needed for the plot, but it’s a plot-driven set of actions rather than character-driven actions. Sure, Mia wants to talk to her mother’s spirit, but the other people sitting around can certainly blow out the candle. And it wouldn’t be that hard to fix this—get the hand in Mia’s possession, have her doing this with one other person, and she might let things go too long so she can talk to her mother…but not with multiple other people in the room with her.

To be fair, this is the sort of plot hole that is only noticeable after the fact. Talk to Me is very well made and acted, and in the moment of watching it, it’s easy to overlook that problem. It's afterwards (still while watching for me, but after the key scene) that one realizes that this would almost never happen in the situation as presented, and there are certainly other ways to engineer the same basic event.

Talk to Me is really well made, well acted, and aside from that you-can-drive-a-truck-through-it plot hole, a pretty smart film as well. I enjoyed this for the most part, but at the same time, there’s a part of me that wanted it to be smarter than it is in getting to the resolution it wants.

Why to watch Talk to Me: The central idea feels new.
Why not to watch: Where it goes is pretty obvious.


  1. I have heard about this film though I'm unsure if I want to see this as I have other things I want to watch.

    1. It's fine. It has moments, and it's certainly gotten a great deal of critical acclaim, but I can't get past what I think is a huge plot hole.

  2. I've heard good things about this, I'll definitely check it out when it's on a service available to me.

    1. I seem to like it a little less than a lot of people. It does have a lot going for it, and there's a lot to like about it.

  3. Talk to Me was supposed to be the scariest horror film of this year. As a huge fan, I can't agree with this notion one bit. It's not atmospheric, creepy nor memorable. It could have been, but it fails to deliver on the basic tropes. If you can't even deliver on those, why should I care about the message.

    1. I don't entirely disagree with you on this. I mean, I agree with your basic argument here entirely.

      For me, Talk to Me is most interesting as a premise. It's a great idea that doesn't go where it should in a lot of ways. The massive plot hole really bothers me, though, and so it turns it from a movie that I could have loved into one that I thought was just pretty good. It's especially disappointing because that plot hole was really easy to fix with a very simple rewrite.