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Filmmaker Spotlight: Darren Lynn Bousman on Death of Me

October 2, 2020 | By

Death Of MeEmbarking on his new horror film, Death of Me, longtime genre director Darren Lynn Bousman knew that he would have to make significant changes to the fundamental settings and themes in the screenplay. “It was originally set in Haiti, and it was [about] voodoo,” said Bousman. “There’s so many good movies based in voodoo—I wanted to do something a little different. We couldn’t find a location based on what the script called for.”

Since Bousman would have to change his story’s locality and rethink the concept of voodoo as a central more of his film, he vetted shooting in Hawaii but found the production expenses too steep for his project. Next, Thailand was explored, and voodoo was replaced with the essentials of Southeast Asian culture. “Pregnant women were thought to be the most powerful soul,” Bousman explained. “That could be an interesting mythology. We based a little bit of it on fact.”

Partnering with a production company in Thailand, Bousman based his film half in the Thai island Krabi and half in Bangkok. “From a production design standpoint, we could never accomplish this movie in America—the town, look, and locations,” Bousman claimed. “We were able to do this on a shoestring budget. Normally, you use stock footage (for aerial shots); 99.9 percent is stuff we were able to shoot with drones.”

Death of Me

Collaborating with indie cinematographer Jose David Montero, Bousman was tasked with assimilating into local culture both individually and with regards to his production. “When we came to Thailand, we leaned into the locale itself,” he stated. “We only had a couple of weeks prep, figuring out stuff when we got there—a lot had to change almost immediately. In a lot of respects, it was going back to Saw II – run and gun, and guerilla style: permitting, set up a shot, and move three streets over. Quickly move back before we’re caught. [Montero] knew what he wanted and fought to get the tools that we needed.”

Throughout principal photography, Bousman’s ideas continued to evolve, especially concerning the harrowing psychological journey of main character Christine, played by striking actress Maggie Q. “The idea, originally, was that Maggie Q and her husband be at odds with one another—tension based on them,” revealed Bousman. “I said to Maggie that we wanted to play Christine not as a victim. She is trying to figure shit out—a fish out of water, but always forward-moving and forward-thinking. It was a choice to play her as strong as possible.”

With Christine’s tortuous ordeal on Krabi, Death of Me plays on two levels: what is happening to her might be a supernatural nightmare, or it could be a harsh reality in a strange land. “Movies that give the audience an out if you don’t want to believe in what that is,” Bousman conveyed about a preferred subgenre of his within horror and thriller exploits. “She’s being gaslighted by everyone. If you re-watch the movie, there’s always clues in every scene that she’s being toyed with—symbols in the background that nothing is random. Those are some of my favorite movies.”

Death of Me

Despite his lead character’s tribulations, Bousman defended the underlying norms in the society he portrayed on Krabi, with one plot point presented that native islanders wish to curtail a predicted typhoon. “There is a real way of life in this town; they were [manipulating Christine] because it would preserve their way of life,” Bousman reflected. “No matter where you live, the majority of people have faith in something, a belief in something. When you start exploring it, it can be scary. Go back 1000 years, and look at the sacrifices based in faith. How is that any more ridiculous [than] it will stop a storm from coming to your island? Faith as a struggle.”

While he has been responsible for a horde of signature horror films, Bousman looked to other types of movies when piqued about uncharted cinematic territories in his career. “I’m a huge fan of big sci-fi epics that don’t rely on reality—hyperreal: Brazil, Blade Runner, Fifth Element…” he confessed. “Fantastical in costumes, colors, and style. My other genre is the paranoid conspiracy thriller: Parallax View, Manchurian Candidate, All the President’s Men.”

Saban Films will release the Death of Me in theaters, On Demand & digitally on October 2, 2020.

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