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DEATH OF ME (2020)
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by Ari Margolis, James Morley III, and David Tish
Starring Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe, Kat Ingkarat, Kelly B. Jones, Caledonia Burr, Chatchawai Kamonsakpitak, Tanapath Singamrath, Saengkham Chanthawong
When a vacationing couple Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) wrap up their trip to Thailand, they decide to party hardy the night before they leave. Waking up with no recollection of what happened the previous night, they grab their camera which has two hours of footage they don’t remember taking. Once they watch it, they witness Neil murdering Christine, which is weird since Christine is alive and well watching the video. Freaked the hell out, the couple begin digging into the remote island lore which leads them to a festival, creepy shamans, and a resurrection ritual. Christine and Neil hope to get to the bottom of what exactly happened the night before and get off the island in one piece.
DEATH OF ME is basically a weird combination of THE HANGOVER, MIDSOMMAR, and THE BELIEVERS. The plot swipes major parts from those films, especially MIDSOMMAR, only the locale and customs are moved from Sweden to Thailand. The film immerses the viewer, along with the couple, into the local culture which consists of masked ceremonies, induced drugs, and mystical forces. As similar as this plot is, the details of the strange ceremonies going on make for some strange looking scenes. They are unnerving, but I think because we are given next to nothing about Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth’s characters at the beginning, it’s harder to empathize with these two pretty people in peril, even though they are fighting for their lives.
The rituals depicted in DEATH OF ME are unnerving. While they aren’t particularly voodoo, the tribal beats, masked dancers, and primitive décor reminded me of the tribal horrors of THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and THE BELIEVERS. But while those films really immersed the viewer into the culture, giving them strong characters going through these foreign and dangerous ceremonies, DEATH OF ME seems to keep its distance from the culture it offers the viewer. Like the couple, the culture seems to be at an arm’s length throughout the film, keeping a safe barrier in between the stars and the dangers around them. THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW literally dragged Bill Pullman through hell and MIDSOMMAR raked Florence Pugh over the coals. This left those characters scarred forever after, and the viewer with them. Maggie Q’s Christine never really seems to misplace a hair as she is journeying through these dangerous hurdles in front of her. Even when she’s vomiting up dirt, she looks great. So, even though the leads are in grave danger, they never really show it other than by screaming into the camera. I guess I just wanted a more arduous struggle for them to conquer or succumb to.
I do think Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth are decent actors. I just think that though the unique Thai culture is highlighted, it never felt as if they were in real danger. DEATH OF ME does have some creepy imagery and some of the cultural rituals are fascinating to watch, but it never felt immersive and therefore the danger just didn’t work for me.