The rules for getting a rush from a ghost in this movie include lighting a candle, grasping the embalmed hand (which is adorned with writing), and stating the invocations of “Talk to me” and “I let you in.” As ringleader Hayley (Zoe Terakes) explains, the possession session that follows can only last for 90 seconds, then the candle must be blown out, and the hand released. If it goes beyond that time, the spirits will attempt to reside in the host’s body, as young Riley (Joe Bird) discovers.
These rules echo so-called “Ouija-stitions” associated with talking boards. Similar to Talk To Me’s hand, physical interaction with a planchette has remained popular for centuries. When attempting to communicate with a spirit, a board user invites a spirit forward, but it is recommended to say “Goodbye” before removing one’s hands. Otherwise, the link to the other side remains open, according to superstition. This is what happens with Riley. When a violent spirit(s) enters his body and begins smashing his head against the table, the 90-second limit is not only exceeded, but amidst the chaos, the candle is not blown out, and the link isn’t severed.
Similarly, the use of the candle in the conjuring ritual with the hand evokes urban myths like that of Bloody Mary. Although the precise rules of the legend vary—insofar as how many times to chant “Bloody Mary” in front of a mirror, what exactly to say, and which character/entity might appear in the looking glass—the use of a candle is consistently present in the legend.
Additionally, Talk To Me emphasizes that a spirit has to be invited in, which is something Catholic exorcists tend to believe is likewise necessary for demonic possession. Again, there are variations as to what an invitation might entail—living a life of sin or using Tarot cards could count, for example—the oppressed person typically opens the door to evil somehow.
The Afterlife Is Hell
Talk To Me has a nihilistic take on the afterlife. It refreshingly eschews well-tread tropes of ghosts in a Christian-esque Heaven and Hell, as well as the popular Hollywood bait-and-switch formula of starting with a haunting before shifting to a demon. In fact, the one devoutly religious character Daniel (Otis Dhanji) is shown as being exceptionally vulnerable to the powers of the spirits even when playing by the rules, and he is never shown calling upon his faith for protection.
Instead of paradise for the pious, and damnation for the wicked, the film suggests that when humans shuffle off their mortal coil, they are all doomed to the same infinite limbo of torment. A black empty abyss without sight or reason. The afterlife sucks big time and wreaks havoc on one’s spectral complexion based on the boils and blotchy skin most of the ghosts have.