September 29

Review – Death of Me (2020)

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Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Starring: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe

Run Time: 91mins

Saw II-IV director Darren Lyn Bousman is the man behind one of the most anticipated release in horror. But that is not this film. No, that film is “Spiral: From the Book of Saw”, which we will now have to wait until 2021 to check out. Before that we get this effort, which unfortunately proves to be another mediocre entry in the “Evil foreigners terrorise unsuspecting American tourists” subgenre.

Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) are a married couple vacationing on a small island just off the coast of Thailand. They both wake up a hangover in their AirBnB with no memory of the previous night. They have little clue how to piece together the previous night, but luckily Neil filmed the previous night on his camera. Unfortunately, that film appears to show killing his wife. But how is this possible when they are both sat right there? May it have something to do with a mysterious evil shot they took at the bar from the footage? (A: Yes. Also, we know that it is evil due to the ghostly voices and a chhhh that play in the background when Neil downs it).

So our story begins as Christine and Neil bumble around to uncover the dark secrets of this island. Now, as set up’s go, it is actually a very promising one. Plus, there could have been great fun to be had both in terms of unravelling the mystery of the island’s patently sinister community and in the blurring the lines of reality (the shot is a hallucinogen). However, the execution of that promising premise is badly fumbled.

The problems here are manifold. First off whenever the Thai characters are speaking Thai there are no subtitles. Now perhaps this was done to give the viewer the same sense of alienation as Christine and Neil. However, it ends up coming over as a rather uncomfortable cultural “othering” (Note: To be fair to the film and the filmmakers this may have just been on the screener link I was given in which case, apologies). This is particularly egregious in a scene where two characters interact in scene neither Christine nor Neil are in and at a point in the film where creating a sense of alienation is no longer necessary.

Further compounding this issue is the fact that the island’s antagonists are so thinly sketched and seem to dabble in the sort of “mystical” Far-East black magic that only exists in movies. These elements are not what harm the film the most, though. No, the central issue is the film’s repetitive nature. We follow Christine, mainly, as she goes around trying to get closer to the truth, then something weird/ hallucinatory happens and then wakes up in another place and has to figure if what she saw was real or not. Rinse-and-repeat until the truth is revealed.

Also, as much as the antagonists are thinly sketched so are the protagonists. Hemsworth’s Neil is a bland character and also seems very unconvincing as a travel writer. Plus, he is a bit of a dope who about five minutes after being traumatised at the sight of killing his wife on film goes back into assignment mode taking photos of the natives. Christine is definitely more interesting, but that is down to a solid performance from Maggie Q more than anything else. She manages to still be interesting despite her character largely being consigned to being the atypical “hysterical women” character.

The other big issue here is the central mystery is never made all that compelling. Partly because the film makes great play of trying to wrong foot with the viewer to see who Christine can trust or not while simultaneously making it entirely obvious. Also, there is none of tension that you got from say a “Midsommar” or more recently “Impetigore.” It is par for the course the denouement is similarly underwhelming.

There are the odd saving graces. As mentioned the initial set-up is thoroughly compelling and Maggie Q gives far and away the best performance in the movie. Also, there are some effectively grisly moments, particularly a disembowelling sequence and a squirm inducing bit of eye violence late in the day. It is all beautifully shot too.  

Overall: Promising premise, ropey execution. Maggie Q’s performance and some decent gory moments can’t save what is a largely pedestrian, hokey effort from Bousman. We can only hope for more from Spiral.

4/10

You can watch the trailer for "Death of Me" here

"Death of Me" is available In Theatres, On Demand and Digital in the US from October 2nd and in the UK from November 23rd


Tags

Alex Essoe, Black Magic, Darren Lynn Bousman, Eye violence, folklore, Hallucinations, Luke Hemsworth, Maggie Q, Mystery, Supernatural Horror, Thailand


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