An American couple, vacationing on a Thai island, find themselves struggling to deal with the aftermath of a hallucinogen given to them during a nightly reverie. The thriller unfolds as each finds uncomfortable truths about the other.
While Christine and Neil try to spend quality time on a remote Thai island, their worst fears come true after their drinks are spiked with an unknown hallucinogen. The American couple is now left stranded with an imminent typhoon alert.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman weaves a passable thriller with Death of Me, one that trudges on to make sense and tries to provide audiences with a sense of urgency. The thriller charts the journey of an American couple Christine (played by Vietnamese-American actress Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) who find themselves stranded in an idyllic Thai island, unable to remember events of the last night. As the two navigate the unknown, riddled with indigenous festivals and “Buddhist drinks”, it becomes obvious that the film has more interest in showing Christine and Neil’s helplessness; a reverse othering if you will.
Luke and Christine complain their drinks were unfairly spiked and demand their lost passports be returned to them at the earliest so that they may return to the safety of the mainland. The island’s picturesque backdrop looms ominously large over the plot (David Tish, Ari Margolis, and James Morley III), propelling the story to weirder territory.
It is through unknown videos on Luke’s camera and phone that the two get a sense of activities that occurred in the ‘parallel world’ of did-that-really-happen? For example, a jagged video shows Neil asphyxiating Christine till he twists her neck or even Neil walking down the seashore nonchalantly claiming “we’re all going to die here” with a sinister smile on his face.
Between Christine’s frequent hallucinations, the added mystery of a traditional talisman around her neck consolidates the suspense, though it is short-lived. By the end of its 94-minute runtime, the incessant warning stares towards the locket by the Thai locals get rather overdone and borders on becoming a nuisance recurrent trope.
It’s obvious that the locals “trapped” the unassuming American couple, but Death of Me fails to shine a light on the motives, thus completely vilifying a people already marginalised for their native ways. That a lack of consent will precede any wrongdoing in a psychological thriller is a known fact, but to make a film layered, both parties need to be ambivalent, at least in some portions through the runtime.
Cinematographer Jose David Montero captures the island with all its aboriginal elements but fails to remove the othering gaze of his lens, which ends up giving a very touristy feel to the locale. This stands in stark contrast to the mature treatment of stitching the fear of an unknown people that something like a Midsommar achieved.
Death of Me’s take on faith and religion also seems warped. In their hasty need to position the Thai local communities as perpetrators, Tish, Margolis and Morley weave an unconvincing storyline on the misplaced faith. Why would people ensconced in a gorgeous island suddenly target foreigners? If it’s to ensure their own safety, then it requires more detailing. Christine’s frequent bouts of illusion get too repetitive and all you wish for is that she stops enduring gruesome beatings and mutilations for once.
Verdict: Death of Me oscillates between confused and overly enthusiastic to prove some vague point that completely evades audiences. Christine herself mouths the film’s synopsis while also succinctly describing her islandic experience. She exasperatedly says, “I’m so sick of this cryptic bulls**t.” And it’s precisely then that you’ll feel the guttural voice saying, “same, fren, same.”