Producers: Lee Nelson, David Tish and Charles Dorfman Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Screenplay: Ari Margolis, James Morley III and David Tish Cast: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe, Kelly Bronwen Jones, Kat Ingkarat and Caledonia Burr Distributor: Saban Films
The scenery is lovely in “Death of Me,” and so is star Maggie Q. Both are photographed well by cinematographer José David Montero. Otherwise Darren Lynn Bousman’s would-be thriller is a depressingly muddled mess.
It begins one morning on the island off the Thai coast where Neil (Luke Hemsworth), a travel writer, and his wife Christine (Maggie Q) are fast asleep. She awakens with a start, as the TV pops up with a warning about an approaching typhoon. She prods Neil to get up off the floor, where he’s practically comatose, telling him they’re late: they have to pack quickly and rush to the dock, where their boat back to the mainland is scheduled to depart.
But everything goes wrong. They get into a quarrel with the cab driver, who forces them out onto the road. And when they get to the dock, they discover that their passports are missing. They can’t leave without them. But there’s one odd positive note: they’re told there’s no typhoon threatening the place at all.
From there on the movie turns into a quest by the puzzled duo to find out what in heaven is going on. It’s especially unnerving when they discover Neil’s camera and replay a video that appears to show him actually murdering and burying Christine after a night of drunkenness on booze that might have been spiked with some mysterious ingredient. They’re equally horrified, and Neil assures her that he’d never do such a thing. But where does the footage come from? And what’s with the strange necklace that Christine is given, or the peculiar attitude of the waitress who served them? Worst of all, Christine actually begins coughing up dirt and grass, suggesting she did spend time underground.
Enter Samantha (Alex Essoe), who runs the place they had rented and offers her help as the dazed couple struggle to learn the truth about what’s happened to them. They go to a doctor and try to track down the waitress who apparently drugged them. But they separate as Neil goes off to photograph a local festival with some curious vibes to it. Scenes are introduced that seem designed to turn the stomach, most notably one that depicts a literal disemboweling. (Of course, it’s quickly forgotten.) Cultism and black magic are introduced, and even a reference to “The Wicker Man” that serves as a signpost. And lurking in the background is that potential typhoon. A previous film about one was called “The Impossible,” which in this case might be applied to the chance of understanding what’s going on. Watching, you’ll like be as much at sea as Christine and Neil, snd at the close you might feel like throwing something at the screen.
You have to sympathize with the stars for what they have to go through, but then they probably enjoyed the vacation in a nice location and the paychecks that went along with it, so one can’t feel too sorry for them. And while one can get some pleasure from the locations, Montero’s cinematography and Sutham (Soviet) Viravandaj’s production design, you still have to deal with the messy transitions that Brian J. Smith’s editing can’t paper over satisfactorily.
Director Bousman was previously responsible for three of the “Saw” movies (II, III and IV), as well as the dreary nunsploitation movie “St. Agatha.” He’s a not without talent, but he definitely lacks taste in his choice of material. In this case he was apparently drawn to a script that possesses an intriguing initial premise that, unfortunately, unravels as the twists multiply. The Thai location is exotic, but it’s not worth visiting in this form.