We Need to Talk About A24's Best Thriller of the Decade (So Far)
Talk to me about Talk to Me.
A24 wasn’t always known for its unique brand of horror. The studio got its start in the early 2010s with thoughtful indie comedies and dramas, but near the end of that decade, something changed. After the early success of The Witch in 2015, A24 struck gold with Hereditary in 2018 (still the studio’s second-highest-grossing film after Everything Everywhere All at Once). Ever since we’ve seen a steady stream of off-kilter indie horror, but nothing has quite hit the high watermark of Hereditary — until now.
Currently in theaters, Talk to Me is perhaps the scariest and best horror movie to come out of A24 this decade so far. If you haven’t seen it yet (and you can stomach a bit of sicko horror) you should stop reading this article now and go see it while knowing as little as possible about the plot. But if you’ve already seen Talk to Me, keep reading because we seriously need to talk about this movie.
Warning! Huge spoilers for Talk to Me ahead. 🤝
The best horror movie of the decade?
The thing about Talk to Me is that it’s incredibly original but also extremely unoriginal. The basic premise of a creepy party trick used by teenagers to summon the dead for a laugh has been practically done to death. So when the movie introduces its core concept of a ceramic hand that summons dead spirits and lets them inhabit your body (never for more than 90 seconds, though, or they won’t want to leave), most horror fans can guess where this story is going.
They’re probably right. Talk to Me unfurls as its protagonist Mia (a young, Black, Australian woman played to perfection by Sophie Wilde) finds herself haunted by these spirits even when the hand is nowhere in sight. Mia is still dealing with the death of her mother, so, of course, the spirits take the form of her mom, pushing her into madness and, eventually, murder.
What sets Talk to Me, apart, however, is its approach to this classic horror trope. For one thing, the movie never bothers to question whether these ghosts are real or not. Within the first 20 minutes or so, we see the first ghost. After that, there’s never any doubt. Talk to Me also eschews the expository explanations that most movies would shoehorn in. Aside from one scene where it’s suggested this might be the real human hand of a psychic (or a Satanist), there’s no attempt to explain where it came from or how it works. It just exists.
The movie’s best trick, however, is simply making you care about its characters. An early scene in which Mia picks up her best friend's little brother Riley from school and they scream the lyrics to Sia’s “Chandelier” in the car does more to establish character that most films can muster. And this makes it all the more potent when both Mia and Riley are tortured by Talk to Me’s monsters.
The 2020s already boast plenty of great horror, from the indie thrills of Empty Man and X to the bigger budgets of Invisible Man and Nope (plus whatever you’d classify Barbarian as). But, at least in my opinion, Talk to Me trumps them all by both embracing and subverting horror tropes to create something somehow both original and unoriginal all at once.
And then, there’s the ending...
Talk to Me’s ending, explained
By the end of Talk to Me, Mia is fully unhinged thanks to the influence of her fake ghost mom (a scene in which her alive father reveals her mother died by suicide confirms the ghost is lying). Meanwhile, Riley is in the hospital after he tested out the hand himself and things went too far; Riley’s soul appears to be trapped in some hellish dimension, while an evil spirit controls his deteriorating body.
The ghosts tell Mia that she needs to put Riley out of his misery, promising they’ll take good care of him on the other side. So Mia goes to the hospital, grabs Riley, and prepares to throw his body onto a nearby highway. But at the last minute, she sees the light and tosses herself off the ledge instead.
The camera pans over Mia’s body as she somehow stands up and shuffles off the road. Then, she’s back in the hospital, watching as Riley recovers and leaves with his family. You probably guessed the twist a minute before it was revealed, but Mia is dead. She’s a spirit now like the ones summoned by the hand.
Suddenly, the world goes black. Then, a point of light appears. Mia walks toward it and finds herself in a familiar setting. A group of teenagers huddled around the hand. One of them says the words, “Talk to me,” and Mia appears.
The ending works so well because it gives you just enough info, teasing out how the story continues beyond these characters — with one dark exception. To be critical, Talk to Me never explains how the hand makes its way to this new group. (Wouldn’t someone destroy it? Maybe there’s more than one?)
But that doesn’t really matter. After all, every horror movie needs to end with a twist. And there are some tropes you just can’t change.