Death Of Me (2020)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe, Ingkarat Kat Jaraswongkosol, Kelly Bronwen Jones, Caledonia Burr, Chatchawan Kamonsakpitak, Sahapoom Totrungsup, Tanapath Singamrath

A couple on vacation awaken to a hangover, with no recollection of the night before, shocked to find their room has been trashed. It's a concept that's been mined for comedy, resulting in The Hangover becoming a box-office hit, and is now utilised for a horrific spin. We see Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) already having a day from hell, even before they try recalling their missing night. In the process, they come across a video which shows Neil forcing himself upon Christine, before he breaks her neck.

Understandably, Christine is shaken by what she has seen. To witness such a horrifying thing happen to her, which she cannot remember, perpetrated by somebody she fully trusts, must be a nightmare. There's potential within such a conceit, which makes it unfortunate that it's so messily delivered. Darren Lynn Bousman may be familiar with the horror genre, but leaves little impression with the scares, somehow making a disembowelling seem pedestrian. There's a notable scene part-way through, involving eyeless figures who have their mouths sewn shut. This should be a standout moment in the 94-minute runtime, feeling like an inescapable nightmare. Instead, it's bizarrely intercut with another character's search, a choice which undercuts any creepiness. This is an apt way to describe the film, as any potential tension just feels deflated through poor decisions.

Leading the picture are Luke Hemsworth and Maggie Q, playing Neil and Christine, the couple caught in the middle of it all. We're told a number of things about them, such as Neil's job being a travel photographer, or how haunted the video has left him, but the leads aren't given the opportunity to show such things through their performances. The pair may do their best, but they don't have much to work with. One wishes we could've seen their relationship before the forgotten night, to get a feel of how they are with each other, and how the unbelievable circumstances have changed that. Instead, Christine just feels like the wife that's largely made to suffer, and react to plot developments, while Neil is just there.

Many of these issues stem from the screenplay, written by Ari Margolis, James Morley III, and David Tish. Instead of character moments, we repeatedly hear that a storm hasn't hit the island in 200 years, and receive a flimsy debate about what constitutes free will. This could've been a good point to highlight the desperation which can come from survival, but there's little interest in hearing much from others than the American leads. This is a symptom of the most troubling element, as this film plays into outdated tropes that are most unwelcome. The islands inhabitants are sketched out with uncomfortable racial stereotypes, leaving the feature to feel rather xenophobic. It's an uncomfortable topping on this miserable little tale, which sets the tone with its moody little songs. As much as The Wicker Man is openly referenced, you'd be better off sticking either version of that film on.

Available on DVD, and to rent from Video on Demand services, from 23rd November