Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 1st, 2020
Death of Me (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman (St. Agatha) brings us a story that delves into the strange and foreign backdrop of a small Taiwanese village, utilizing the viewer’s sense of xenophobia to drive this supernatural plot. While the film presents a mysterious story and chilling visuals, Death of Me tries too hard to conceal a surprise ending where the payoff does not necessarily merit the bland and shaky setup leading up to it. As a film about the unseen truths of forgotten, ancient tradition, it falls short of uniqueness and originality.
Death of Me tells the story of a husband and wife on a photo-journalist getaway during an ancient holiday festival on a small island off the coast of Taiwan. The two awake hungover and unable to remember the night before. Finding their passports and one cellphone missing, Neil (Luke Hemsworth, Hickok) finds a video on his phone, which reveals that, the night before, he murdered his wife Christine (Maggie Q, Fantasy Island). Yet somehow, his wife is alive and well next to him as they watch the video! How is that possible, and what happened to this couple the night before that the people on the island are (suspiciously) not telling them?
What’s interesting about Death of Me is the way it uses and revisits the supporting cast members to create a more-than-supernatural reasoning to be afraid. The imagery and set/costume design of a culture with primordial, if not unexplainably creepy, traditions allows for a detachment from reality. The villainous presence in the story is not solely the demons and spirits that torment the undead Christine, but the secret that seemingly everyone on this small Taiwanese island refuses to explain. The establishment of Christine and Neil not being able to trust anyone on the island gives the film a very real, relatable and gradual terror, if not one relying on convenient and improbable circumstances.
Unfortunately, Death of Me plays a little too heavily on the theme of xenophobia as a technique to instill fear in the viewer, resulting in a pressing sense of unbelievability. Christine and Neil are written very poorly through the exposition, ranging from stale dialogue to losing common sense in order to find themselves in conflict. The use of horrifying imagery and gore comes across as out of place and random, and doesn’t quite come together to explain itself once the veil has been raised. Director Bousman remains focused on getting the viewer through the adventure and, in anticipation of the grand finale, loses coherence long before the final reveal.