There’s no better time to bask in the eerie glow of horror movies than October, as genre fans often indulge in a melody of films to prep for the Halloween season. While wide releases may be far and few between right now, indie studios look to keep the tradition alive with some new VOD releases. That’s where Death of Me comes in, the latest from veteran director Darren Lynn Bousman (director of Saw 2, 3, 4, and the upcoming Spiral). Bousman’s latest isn’t without its fair share of intriguing qualities, yet this moody mystery fails to truly take off.
Death of Me follows Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth), a couple in the midst of a South Pacific island getaway. After a night they can’t remember, the two wake up to witness a video of Neil murdering Christine, sparking a surrealist descent down the island’s unknown dangers.
In a genre where innovation is exhibited more in filmmaking prowess than narrative ingenuity, Death of Me boasts a surprisingly engaging premise. Taking the “recollecting your steps” narrative approach from Memento and The Hangover but including a tinge of supernatural horror, the script presents a few clever twists and turns that grasp audience’s interest. Bousman’s direction works best when it embellishes in the story’s surrealist nature, throwing a bevy of grimy chills to unnerve audiences. Some of these convey the lingering dangers of the unknown, playing off the character’s paranoia to develop a sense of atmosphere early on.
Despite the initial promise, Death of Me can’t quite combine its ingredients into a satisfying whole. The script does little to build around its positive foundation, strapping stars Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth with two thanklessly bland roles. Q’s overlooked abilities certainly help propel the narrative, but the two characters never feel as lived-in as their relationship would indicate. It’s also a letdown to see the script never engage with its horrors in substantive ways, giving audiences little to attach to aside from a thinly-veiled sense of dread.
As the narrative puzzle pieces come together, Death of Me reveals its fairly unimpressive hand. Instead of leading to a shocking conclusion, the script goes through the motions as it chalks down its frights to a simplistic case of tribalism. I don’t know about you, but the concept of an international culture operating in violent and backward ways feels extremely dated at this point. It’s a tiresome cliche that undercuts the compelling thrills that are brought to the table.
Death of Me‘s alluring set-up ultimately goes nowhere, leaving audiences with a routine horror showcase that lacks substance and originality.
DEATH OF ME will be available In Theatres, On Demand and Digital October 2nd.
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