Maggie Q makes a pretty good surrogate for the audience in the horror tale “Death of Me.”
As Christina, a tourist trapped by on an Thai island about to take a typhoon hit, struggling to get around the not-wholly-hidden agenda of the simple, happy natives, Q (for Quigley) is quick to lose her patience, quick to realize danger if not what to do about it, and quick to anger.
“I’m so sick of this cryptic bull—t!”
Perhaps if this multi-handed script hadn’t been so caught up in rituals, hallucinations and attempts at explaining its illogical “logic,” and just focused on one pissed-off American tourist determined to get away from a deadly “paradise,” this mildly-chilling horror tale would have found its proper thriller footing and sprinted by.
Christina came here with her travel-writer husband Neil (Luke Hemsworth, older brother of Chris and Liam). They wake up after their “last night” there, dirty and confused. They need to catch a ferry, but don’t. They need to remember what happened the night before, but cannot.
In maybe the biggest eye-roller among the film’s too-obvious plot devices, Neil “recorded” everything that happened the night before on his phone. Hours of it.
A willingly-gulped spiked drink, an amulet of local origin, and Christina finds herself puking up dirt and grass in the morning. Because the video showed her murdered and buried the night before. By Neil.
Their quest to flee or find out what’s going on hurls frustrating scenes at them which strip away their sense of urgency, and the film’s. Language barriers, side-eyes from locals who don’t seem intent on “help,” reminders that there’s no typhoon danger here because “no storm hit this island two hundred years.”
Maggie Q gives Christina a nice mania that she lets go of too quickly, as her character’s panic gives way to cool-headed — TOO cool-headed — fury. She takes Neil’s phone, to call her parents, her sister, “the FBI.”
“Who’d the guy in ‘The Wicker Man’ call?”
“Nobody. He got burned to death.”
Separated from Neil, Christina questions everybody and everything. Locals, including the helpful American AirBnB hostess (Alex Essoe) try to steer her clear of…danger? Answers?
“This is the part where I tell you not to go in.”
“This is the part where I don’t listen.”
That self-awareness gives this Darren Lynn Bousman (“Repo! The Genetic Opera,” “Saw II”) film a light moment or two, but nothing more.
The confusion between reality and hallucination absolutely butchers the film’s forward momentum. Pausing to see this grisly vision (Or IS it?) or that one doesn’t fool Christina, or the viewer into believing “It’s all in your head.”
Being told that by a Thai cop, doctor or whoever doesn’t muddy the waters either. That misdirection squanders the film’s suspense and urgency.
Hell, you referenced “The Wicker Man.” Were you paying attention to how and why it worked or more recently DIDN’T work?
MPAA Rating: R for violence, gore, sexual content and language
Cast: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe, Kelly B. Jones and Kat Ingkarat.
Credits: Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, script by Ari Margolis, James Morley III and David Tish. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:34