Darren Lynn Bousman brings an unnerving and inventive concept with Death of Me. Maggie Q shines in a film that doesn’t connect its story as well as it could have.
Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) awake on their dream vacation to a hangover and no recollection of the night before. The only clue to the horrors that transpired is a tape of Neil killing Christine and burying her in a shallow grave. Unable to return home due to their missing passports, they attempt to work out what happened in that missing night. The couple’s vacation to the South Pacific soon turns into a game of survival with death itself.
That is quite the killer concept, right? A supernatural horror version of The Hangover is a concept that hasn’t been explored often (if at all) and this allows Death of Me to feel very fresh. Which is quite something for a genre that feels as if we have seen everything. With the couple searching for answers we get some truly interesting twists that come as a surprise as their story unfolds. The constant thought that these two fish out of water have gotten themselves into something they should have wisely ignored.
Some direction and editing sequences make little sense, for instance. When Christine is vomiting up grass and soil after watching the video. For some reason, we are shown random parts of it in slow motion. It doesn’t quite resonate what Bousman was aiming for in moments like this as it almost jolts the audience from that confusing and disturbing moment. This is frustrating as otherwise, Bousman has created a well-crafted film here. He can ramp up the tension and when we get to some of our more gruesome scenes. Bousman can utilise some wonderful visuals, to make the audience queasy. He can improve upon his Saw films and allow for emotions characters and the audiences to play out. Instead of just trying to shock the audience.
Bousman does very well at having us fall for this beautiful part of Thailand with gorgeous drone shots. His imagery in Christine’s hallucinations is also quite chilling. He knows how to work the audience and while the pacing could do with being a tad slower. His expert ability to bring a chaotic and atmospheric to the film shows considerable growth from his three Saw films. He is a filmmaker evolving and growing and this is some of his best work.
Maggie Q shines here as she portrays Christine’s confusion and continually rising terror at the situation she is in. Her hallucinations worsen and the genuine fear you see on her face brings the same feeling to the audience. She keeps the film on the tracks as best as she can. But her thinly written background doesn’t allow us to get to know her, which is an issue for a lead.
Due to how the story is presented to us. It is understandable why she does what she does throughout the film. From the moment she watches that video. She has barely a moment to sit and work out what is next as she is hit by wave. After wave of hallucinations and odd experiences that she struggles to tell which is happening and what isn’t. She gives a great underrated performance here.
Hemsworth is given less of a background and that is one of the aspects that hurts the film. If we were able to spend more time with this couple. To see more of their dynamic instead of cutaways to them on a beach it would allow the audience to feel more for their characters. Hemsworth is good here, but he has so little going on with Neil that it feels that he is trying to form his character on the fly. More time and information on our duo is greatly needed to get give these actors something meatier to work with. As we know they are capable of it.
There is only one aspect of Death to Me that truly annoys and that is the costume decision to allow Luke Hemsworth to wear the glasses that he does. They do not suit him at all and for a couple who can afford this holiday and look quite fashionable, it is mindboggling that he wears the glasses usually reserved for sweaty mustachioed perverts.
Sadly where Death of Me falters and falters heavily is in its script. The feeling that a great and original idea was made, and some great sequences were written. Then how all of those moments connected got lost or forgotten. The final act appears to veer off into standard horror territory, but there is a lot to like in the script. Which you would hope for when three people are given writing credits here.
It has to be stated how good the original premise is for Death of Me and it sets the audience very well. The first 15-20 minutes have you hooked and invested. Why it takes the road it does, later on, is puzzling. It doesn’t need to go down the old tired trope of two Westerners being led astray by the locals. Death of Me felt like it had so much more going for it than it eventually does and by taking that route at the pier it loses some steam and reverts into itself after that moment.
Our two leads are well written for example, instead of going off the deep end and panicking their way through the film, they are pragmatists. There has to be a reason for everything going on and until they find their passports. Why didn’t they have a photocopy to go to their embassy with btw? Travelling 101 that.
Although the story is a tad wonky, there is so much to take away from Death of Me, from the concept to Maggie Q’s strong performance. It is just a case of what could have been. If the film had been able to kick on from that great opening 15 minutes, with the performances, direction and concept that it had. This could have been a special genre film. Regretfully, due to the limitations and the refusal to be bolder with the story we are left frustrated. Death of Me is still a film worth your time. It just could have been more.
Signature Entertainment presents Death of Me on Digital HD and DVD from November 23rd
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