DEATH OF ME movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

DEATH OF ME movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

Rating: R
Stars: Maggie Q, Alex Essoe, Luke Hemsworth, Kat Ingkarat, Kelly B. Jones
Writers: Art Margolis & James Morley III and David Tish
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Distributor: Saban Films
Release Date: October 2, 2020

DEATH OF ME is contemporary folk horror set on a Thai island. Christine (Maggie Q) and her travel journalist husband Neil (Luke Hemsworth) are staying at a rented house in this picturesque setting. Neil is here to do an article on the place; Christine is along for this working vacation.

Christine and Neil wake up in the bedroom, covered with dirt and possibly blood. Neither can remember what happened the night before. Then Neil discovers two-and-a-half hours of footage recorded on his camera. Aha. At first, we see the couple getting drunk in a bar, and Christine being given an amulet – which she still has – by server Maddie (Kat Ingkarat). Then Christine and Neil are outside. The video appears to show Neil raping Christine, throttling her, breaking her neck, then digging a shallow grave and burying her. Since they’re watching this together, they’re understandably confused, not to mention shaken.

Add to this situation that their passports are missing, there’s a local festival beginning, and everybody keeps mentioning how the island hasn’t been hit by a typhoon in two hundred years. All this will give viewers have a good guess as to the general direction DEATH OF ME may be taking. The script by Art Margolis & James Morley III and David Tish makes it clear that the filmmakers know that we know: not only does Neil name-check THE WICKER MAN, Christine knows what he’s talking about.

DEATH OF ME of course has its own mythology and imagery. Because English-language horror cinema hasn’t mined Thailand extensively, there are some very cool and creepy types of local artwork, as well as good, disturbing gore. A sonogram scene provides worthy chills. Director Darren Lynn Bousman, who helmed several installments of the SAW franchise, as well as the unique REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, sets up tension well.

The flip side of the welcome novelty is that we get a white American couple being menaced by mostly Asian strangers. There isn’t a sense that the filmmakers are trying to promote xenophobia, but more that they either didn’t think through their message, or don’t believe anybody will take this aspect seriously, since a number of films with homogenous-looking casts have had the same general plotline.

DEATH OF ME movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

DEATH OF ME movie poster | ©2020 Saban Films

There are a couple of logic glitches. We learn something about the specifics of the lore that makes us wonder how the main characters wind up in their predicament in the first place.

DEATH OF ME establishes that Christine and Neil have both been given powerful hallucinogenic drugs, so that they and we can never be sure if what they’re seeing is real or an illusion. This serves the premise until it doesn’t. There’s a point at which the intriguingly mysterious becomes the confusingly coy.

Maggie Q as Christine is a forceful and riveting performer. She’s a strong focal point, and makes us believe that Christine is resilient when she has to be. Hemsworth has charm, while bringing some ambiguity to Neil.

DEATH OF ME has some issues, but it’s well-made and has enough original horror moments to be worthwhile.

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