Over the last near 20 years, Darren Lynn Bousman has amassed impressive horror credentials. To date, his filmography includes three Saw sequels, the underrated Mother’s Day remake, and ‘nunsploitation’ flick, St Agatha. And if we’re lucky, Bousman and Lionsgate will be delivering the highly anticipated, Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Unfortunately, COVID-19 banished Bousman’s 2020 directorial outing, Death of Me, to an obscure VOD release. Now Netflix is streaming the ‘under the radar’ supernatural thriller. Trailers promise a supernatural mystery with hints of The Wicker Man thrown in for good measure. But even in a hypothetical world without COVID-19, would Death of Me register with horror fans?
On a beautiful tropical island resort off the coast of Thailand, Neil and Christine wake up hungover and with no memory of how they got back to their room. Covered in dirt and blood, they watch footage on Neil’s camera that shows a drunk Neil strangling Christine to death. Now they’re trapped on the island, waiting for the next ferry, while a storm rapidly approaches. Mistrustful of each other and haunted by increasingly bizarre images, Christine and Neil must piece together the previous night as time quickly slips away.
Death of Me Wastes Interesting Premise With Derivative, Scare-Free Storytelling
Take a look at the IMDb page for Death of Me and you’ll see three writers share screenplay credits. Apparently, David Tish, Ari Margolis, and James Morley III really like The Wicker Man. And who can blame them? After all, The Wicker Man (not the Nicolas Cage remake) is a folk horror class. There’s also nothing wrong with including an homage to one’s influences. Where the influence becomes a problem is when Death of Me loses its grasp of its own story becoming something of a confusing mess. But the first 30 minutes or so of this supernatural thriller are intriguing, if not a little short of gripping. In addition to the central mystery, Death of Me teases an interesting mix of technology and folklore. Yet as the story unfold things quickly buckle under an increasingly and unnecessarily complicated mythology. Expository dialogue includes references to island sacrifices and planes of existence between life and death.
Yet as the story unfold things quickly buckle under an increasingly and unnecessarily complicated mythology.
If Death of Me’s story borders on tedious, Bousman’s normally capable direction similarly falters. Given his work on several Saw sequels, Bousman aptly doles out disturbing imagery and grotesque gore reminiscent of the ‘Torture Porn‘ era. Whether it’s the sight of a villager sewing someone’s eye shut or a character disemboweling themselves, Bousman knows how to make audiences squirm. However, several disturbing images aren’t enough when there’s nothing in the way of atmosphere or scares. Yes, there’s a few jump scares interspersed throughout the movie but nothing holding them together. That is, Bousman struggles to maintain a sense of dread. And unlike The Wicker Man, nothing about Death of Me will linger with you once the credits finish rolling.
Maggie Q Trapped in Another Bad Island Resort Movie
Poor Maggie Q. She’s a fantastic actress and it’s nice to see her headlining movies. But the early 2020 Fantasy Island was pretty anemic stuff. Now Death of Me strands Maggie Q on yet another island in another resort with pretty much the same results. Not surprisingly, Maggie Q is the best thing about this horror movie, doing her best to make the material work. In a better movie, it’s not hard to see why directors would want to cast Q. Similar to Sigourney Weaver, Q boasts dramatic range while convincingly being a ‘bad ass’ when the story requires it. Too bad Death of Me won’t do much for her.
Now Death of Me strands Maggie Q on yet another island in another resort with pretty much the same results.
Outside of Maggie Q, Alex Essoe shines in a supporting role. Indie horror fans will recognize Essoe from Starry Eyes, Midnighters, and, more recently, a small role in Doctor Sleep. Though this is a step backwards in terms of quality, Essoe may at least benefit from some more exposure. In the strangest bit of casting, Luke Hemsworth – yes, brother of those Hemsworth’s – headlines Death of Me alongside Q. Interestingly, Hemsworth looks more like a distant relative of Matt Damon, which in no way matters to the movie. Neither head-turning nor horrific, Hemsworth acquits himself just fine. Certainly, his performance is among the least of Death of Me’s problems.
Death of Me a Middling, Muddled Effort From Bousman
You can’t blame Bousman for wanting to try something a little different. And Death of Me isn’t quite as bad as some reviews suggest. By and large, this is a watchable effort that even flirts with intrigue for 30 minutes or so. Sadly, Death of Me quickly crumbles under the weight of its own convoluted story. Despite some genuinely shocking moments, Bousman also fails to conjure up much in the way of scares. Try as she may, Maggie Q can’t save this one, even with another strong performance. As the climax finally rolls out, you’ll be less interested in what’s going on and more concerned with the move just ending. So if you thought your 2020 was bad just remember that Maggie Q starred in not one, but two, bad horror movies set in island resorts.