Not all horror films are great, but plenty are good. Death Of Me is not ever going to enter the upper echelons of the genre, but it does present a fun enough way to spend 94 minutes.
The story is a bit like a folk horror centered Dude, Where’s My Car?. Married couple Christine and Neil (Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth) wake up the last morning of their trip to a remote island of Thailand with very little idea of what happened the night before. Christine is covered in dirt and is missing both her phone and her passport. Neil is in slightly better shape, but not by much. They try to make a dash to catch their ferry off of the island, but without her passport the crew will not allow them to board. Defeated, they head back to their rental house to come up with a plan. Kindly, their property owner (Alex Essoe) lets them stay a little longer while they sort themselves out.
As they begin to retrace their steps and try to find the missing items it becomes gravenly apparent that something is amiss on the island. At least, it is off to Neil and Christine but the locals so not appear concerned. Their taxi refuses to take them all the way to the ferry. Everyone is smiling hauntingly widely at Christine. And Christine keeps seeing things that might not be there. When Neil discovers a lengthy video of the previous night on his camera, they are anticipating some answers, but it only leaves them with more questions.
From here on out Death of Me moves rapidly from place to place with Neil and Christine as they try to find the islanders who might have done this to them so that they can recover the passport and put everything behind them. The stakes get higher and higher as Christine’s health starts to wane and a massive typhoon is headed for the island. They may not make it out alive, but they have got to try.
If bits of this sounds awfully similar to another island-bound folk horror mainstay, that fact is not lost on the couple going through these trials. When Neil gets some reception on his cell phone, he jokingly asks Christine, “Who did the guy in The Wicker Man call?” The self-referential thread begins and ends there, and none of their decision making seems to be affected by the cinematic cautionary tale, but it is at least a nod to the audience to acknowledge the film’s lack of originality.
Similar to other folk horror, both name-checked and not, Death of Me does bring to the forefront of the film the question of the power of belief. These ideas and traditions that may or may not be threatening the Americans’ lives are not merely for the entertainment of tourists but they are what the locals believe deep in their hearts about how the world works. Even with all of the dark magic and violent attacks, this allegiance to faith is presented as being the most terrifying facet of the film, and rightly so.
One significant way that Death Of Me fails is its over explanation of what is happening to Christina and Neil and the island. While there may be a version of this film where atmosphere and character do the heavy lifting for the plot, here we are told, sometimes repeatedly, what is happening and why. This makes the film inelegant and at times a little clunky, but given the film is generally aiming to be a fast moving trip through the consequences of foreign travel and messing with locals, I am willing to let this slide.
Death Of Me is not the smartest nor the most original horror film, but the sheer inertia of the story and the question of faith at its core make it an interesting enough watch.