DEATH OF ME stars Maggie Q (Divergent), Luke Hemsworth (“Westworld“, Thor: Ragnarok), and Alex Essoe (Doctor Sleep, Homewrecker) and is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, a name many horror fans will remember from the Saw franchise. The film is written by Black Days screenwriting duo Ari Margolis and James Morley III along with David Tish, making his feature debut as a writer.
In DEATH OF ME, Christine (Maggie Q) and her husband Neil (Luke Hemsworth) wake up to a trashed hotel room, totally hungover and with no memory of what happened the night before. The couple tries to retrace their steps by looking over Neil’s camera footage and watch, horrified, as Neil appears to assault Christine and snap her neck. The footage also reveals a strange happening in a nearby bar that may give some context to their spotty memory. A storm is coming and the couple has twenty-four hours to get on the ferry and escape. But the island and its locals have other plans.
DEATH OF ME begins on an intense and intriguing “WTF?!” note… and everything promptly goes downhill from there. The entire tone of the film is one of hectic confusion which normally adds a sense of dread to a horror film but, in this case, is just that – hectic and confusing. The panic of the characters and their urgency really doesn’t lead to anywhere. Additionally, as the film plays with events and memory and visions it never reveals any concrete truths.
I can appreciate that the goal of the filmmakers may have been to keep what is reality and what is fever dream loosely defined. I understand that secrets drive this story. All of that being said, without any anchor of reality or understanding to ground to, the viewer is left floating in ambiguity and it gets tedious.
DEATH OF ME has a real problem with pacing. Once again, so much of the film is entrenched in panic and confusion that it has no momentum. There is very little in this film that actually pushes the story forward and progresses it. DEATH OF ME meanders. It may be meandering at a frantic, rapid pace – but it is still meandering through its narrative. Entire acts of the film go by, with next to nothing accomplished or revealed. Worse than that, what little does occur is hardly worth the investment of time.
The greatest disappointment of DEATH OF ME is that you can’t help but feel cheated out of the film’s lore. In the first act, the viewer gets tantalizing teases of a strange upcoming festival that is unique to the island and its people. Disturbing visions and visuals give us a small hint of what’s to come. But, by the time the film’s climax hits and the plot is revealed one can’t help but ask, “Is that it?”
There is clearly an entire world and history of these islanders and their vengeful gods. As a viewer, I’m desperate to know the secrets of the island as Christine struggles to keep from falling victim to them. It cheapens the entire film to reach the end and have more questions than answers. Have the gods been protecting the island? How does the sacrifice work? What kind of monstrous fetus was Christine carrying? Furthermore, without clarity in its lore DEATH OF ME sometimes falls prey to breaking its own rules. More than once the film contradicted itself for the sake of a scare and it borders on offensive to the intelligence of the viewer.
It’s a shame because DEATH OF ME has a handful of truly disturbing moments and frightening shots that deserve better than this script. In particular, Maggie Q offers a sincere and competent performance that way outclasses this material. As good as she was there was little that could be done to redeem DEATH OF ME, which remained frustrating and scattered right up to the very final shot.
At best, DEATH OF ME is a forgettable horror that offers little for the viewer to cling to. There is hardly a story to invest in and what’s there feels slapped together. A missed opportunity, to say the least.
DEATH OF ME will release in theaters, digitally, and On Demand on October 2, 2020, from Saban Films.
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