Does this cliché story of an American couple vacationing on a foreign island have enough spooks to keep you up at night? Not really.
Cast: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Kat Ingkarat, Alex Essoe
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
The plot revolves around an American couple vacationing on a remote island in Thailand, who must uncover the mystery behind a strange video they find after waking up with no recollection of the previous night. The first major piece of the puzzle they find is a disturbing video that shows one of them killing the other.
As students of Film and Literature, we are taught to read texts in the light of the central arguments that they present. What is the writer/filmmaker trying to say through the story? What are the central conflicts/dilemmas in the story and how do they help explain the world around us?
Darren Lynn Bousman’s Death of Me (2020) is one of those films whose central argument I just couldn’t grasp. I really don’t understand what Bousman is trying to say in this grisly story.
I have to confess, I’m not a horror fan, and I’ve laughed my way through my share of horror movies.
As for Death of Me, I really liked it visually: the shots of the Thai beach and even the gore seemed well-shot. Despite little connection to the storyline, I could sit through the visuals for 1.5 hours. The horror was hardly there: for the most part, it seemed a mishmash of cultural stereotypes superimposed on a wobbly plot.
Christine (Maggie Q) and her travel journalist husband Neil (Luke Hemsworth) wake up on an exotic foreign island with no memories of the previous night. Then they play Neil’s video recording to find that Neil had killed Christine (?) after forcing himself on her. Christine is horrified and so are we. I mean, why would someone waste such a picturesque location on such a pointless premise?
I guess the horror arises from the fact that Christine has to trudge along with her husband every step of the way, despite knowing that he’s killed her. Is the movie obliquely trying to say that the event of Christine’s killing is her subconscious warning her of the horrors of an abusive marriage? Is Neil gaslighting her, or are the hallucinations a metaphor of some kind?
Christine is given a necklace which supposedly has magical powers. It may be emblematic of the island whose culture and history the couple are studying. A few references seem to risk cultural appropriation.
The film starts out promisingly well. Maggie Q is more than convincing as Christine and lights up every frame she is in; Luke Hemsworth who plays her husband Neil seems dedicated, too. What the whole thing lacks is narrative cohesion, and the action seems marred by a cryptic storyline. For the most part, the film has little to offer except the actors’ dedicated performances.
In the end, the couple is made to perform an ancient ritual, whose narrative function is suspect.
What should build up to a hallucinatory pitch, wavers minute by minute in repeat zoom-ins, and a few badly designed snakes. Overall, the next best part about the movie is its music score, to which the beautiful backgrounds seem to be chanting the title (Death of Me) minute by minute as the end nears.
The film has good cinematography and a couple of good performances. It could disappoint hardcore horror fans. And if you decipher the storyline, let me know, too.