Right here, in this very paragraph, is where I would usually make some kind of vague thesis statement about the movie I’m about to review, which happens to be the new horror film Death of Me. But there’s just so much wrong with this incoherent, disrespectful waste of time that I don’t know where to start. Let’s just get on with the plot (HA!) description and see what happens, shall we?
Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke “The Other One” Hemsworth) are an American couple vacationing in a small, semi-remote island in Thailand. They wake up one morning to find their room trashed and the two of them in horrible shape with no memory of the night before. A disturbing video on Neil’s phone shows Neil killing and burying Christine in a drunken stupor, yet Christine is still alive. As they try to piece their situation together, Christine keeps slipping in and out of hallucinations, and the island becomes more and more sinister.
About the best thing that can be said about Death of Me is that fact that it was filmed on location in Thailand using a mostly Thai cast and crew. The landscapes are gorgeous, vivid, and lush. Director Darren Lynn Bousman, in a rare moment of ingenuity, has decided not to subtitle any of the Thai dialogue, emphasizing the island’s mystery and putting us squarely in the heads of the confused and terrified American tourists who don’t speak the language or understand the culture.
But that’s just about one of the only good things Bousman does in one of the longest 96 minutes I’ve ever sat through. Boring, confusing, and unfocused, it less resembles the fever dream he was likely aiming for and more a bout of food poisoning from some bad pad thai. In that you just want it done with and out of your system so you can feel better already.
Bousman and his small team of writers don’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going with the material they’ve gathered. They created a kind of Frankenstein’s monster with parts from better films without bringing along what made those films interesting. You can easily find bits and pieces of Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man, and Misdommar here, but without any interesting characters, philosophical or metaphorical underpinnings, or genuine drama.
And you know things have to be bad if I compare Midsommar favorably to something. Like that film, it also heavily others the culture its set in, carrying an unpleasant exploitation, mondo film vibe with it. It dances dangerously close to xenophobia at times, which is bad enough on its own without all the other problems the film has.
The film doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to do in any way, and there’s no coherence to the film’s central mystery. It really feels like the creative team went into this without a plan, making things up as they went along. The set-up is intriguing enough, but every time Christine and Neil find a clue or lead, it just leads them to another question. Even during the climax, and even with a character that pops up at regular intervals just to explain things, almost nothing makes logical sense. The narrative progression isn’t so much an rewarding uphill climb as it is a Choose Your Own Adventure book where every choice is a dead end and you have to find the ending by cheating.
Bousman has little sense of pacing or drama, although he starts off promisingly enough. The opening scenes are appropriately intriguing and play well off their languid, unassuming energy. But almost immediately, it’s clear he has no idea when to cut, when to edit, or when to shake things up. Most scenes go on far too long with way too much padding, lingering well past the moment where their point is made, occasionally punctuated by some pointless gore. Bousman isn’t helped by Mark Sayfritz’s score, which again starts out good but quickly descends into monotony. We spend way too much time with Neil and Christine before they discover the video, yet we don’t know anything about them, making it hard to care about their circumstances.
Frankly put, Neil and Christine are poorly-drawn characters who exist only to be abused. They have little in the way of personality or agency, and we only see them in a reactionary capacity. Maggie Q does what she can, bless her, and she’s able to give Christine a hint of an identity. She’s expressive and emotional enough to hit the proper scream queen beats required here, but the flat script stops her from doing much more. She doesn’t have much chemistry with Luke Hemsworth, possibly because Neil is such a nothing character, but Hemsworth also doesn’t seem like he’s invested at all in his work. You could have plugged in anyone into this role and gotten the same results. The best thing that can be said about his performance is that he knows how to wear a pear of jeans.
Death To Me is a colossal waste of time. There’s very little to recommend here. Aside from a decent performance by Maggie Q and some rather striking visuals, it’s a train wreck served with cold, expired Thai noodles. More disgusting than it is frightening, it’s an incoherent mess with no thesis, no moral, and no point that I’m glad to purge out of my brain.
FBOTU Score: 3 out of 10 / D
Death of Me can be streamed through Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu.