Darren Lynn Bousman Talks Death of Me, Immersive Horror and More [Exclusive]


Director Darren Lynn Bousman is back with a new movie, Death of Me. Bousman is known best for his work on the Saw franchise, having directed three previous entries in the horror series, as well as the upcoming Spiral, which stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. But the movie was pushed to next year. Even so, Bousman has a new, original thriller coming our way just in time for Halloween. He’s been keeping busy.

Death of Me sees a couple, played by Maggie Q and Luke Hemsworth, who are vacationing on an island off the coast of Thailand. They wake up hungover and with no memory of the previous night. They find footage on Neil’s camera, and watch, horrified, as Neil appears to murder Christine. With twenty-four hours until the next ferry and a typhoon threatening the island, Christine and Neil attempt to reconstruct the night’s events.

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I recently had the chance to speak with the filmmaker in honor of his new movie, which arrives on October 2. We discussed his thoughts on spoilers, his love for musicals and much more. Enjoy.

So we’re here to talk about your new flick, Death of Me. This is one of those things where, even when I wrote up the trailer story a bit ago, I was like, “Yeah, just try to keep it as anti-spoiler as possible.” So how would you, as the filmmaker, describe this movie without spoiling too much?

Darren Lynn Bousman: I mean, the simplest way, I think is you can say it’s kind of a horror version of The Hangover. It’s the story of a couple who go on a vacation to Thailand. The movie begins when they wake up, and they have no recollection of the night before and through a series of images they find on their camera, they find some unexplainable pictures and footage, mainly the footage of the husband killing his wife, Maggie Q, in a very brutal way. But here they are, and they’re both okay, and neither of them are dead. The rest of the movie is them trying to figure out what the hell happened the night before while they’re trapped on this island unable to get off of it.

Regardless of whatever the movie is as it exists, you have to market it. That’s always a big part of it. I’m assuming you are doing the best to preserve as many surprises as possible for the viewing experience. Is that tough for you? As the filmmaker, when you got to go out and say stuff about the movie, but not really say that much about it?

Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, but we live in a different world than we did 20 years together. I remember when I did Saw II. IMDB had a message board thing. I remember the movie was getting spoiled right and left, and I lost my goddamn s*** every single day because I’m like, “How could they do that? How could they spoil this?” And blah, blah blah. At this point, I don’t really care. Either people are going to see the movie or they’re not going to see the movie. If you want to see the movie, you’re gonna try to stay away from spoilers or whatever. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten older and grumpier, I just don’t care as much regarding spoilers that I used to. I think that hopefully, the movie exists past whatever spoiler there may or may not be in a trailer or whatever. I think what’s cool about this is, once you see the movie there’s a lot of rewatch value in it, if you know what the twist is, going back and kind of watching it from a different perspective. It kind of offers a different insight on it.

Yeah. It’s funny, the spoiler thing. Especially being in my profession. I have to write about these things all the time, and you see spoiler images and all this stuff. All that I’ve found is if a movie is good, even if you’ve had something spoiled, the movie will stand on its own two feet.

Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, I mean, there’s a difference when you are dealing with something like Saw, I think. Or Spiral, than you are doing with the Death of Me. Spiral has become, or Saw, I should say, has become kind of known for the twist. Can you figure out the twist? So there’s a little difference on something like that because you’re trying to preserve what is a gimmick for the audience. The gimmick is, can you figure out the magic trick? We’re going to present you something and we’re gonna try to fool you. Can you guess that? There’s a difference between that and something like this, which isn’t isn’t the magic trick type of formula, which I think the Saw movies are.

You’ve done a lot of different things over the years. I was going to ask you about the immersive theater stuff. You’ve pushed the envelope with your Saw movies. You’ve done musical horror with Devil’s Carnival and Repo. Are there any other things you want to try to throw in the genre blender and see what comes out the other side? Do you have any ideas rolling around in your head that you haven’t got to explore yet?

Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah. The biggest thing that I could get a point to, my favorite type of film that I like to watch are movies that transport you to a different world where the laws of reality don’t exist in this world. So I’ll give you an example. If you look at something like a Fifth Element type movie, those types of films that are fantastical, and big, and kind of grandiose, and flamboyant at the same time. I love those. So if I look back at my favorite movies as a kid, I look at things like Brazil or Blade Runner, these types of like bigger than life films. I love that. Repo was the closest I got. I guess Devil’s Carnival to some extent, where I’m not doing a procedural, or I’m not doing real people in a real environment. I’m doing over the top kind of theatrics. That’s why I think I loved Repo so much. Repo allowed me a chance to do that kind of over the top theatrics, and I gained quite an insane appreciation for those types of movies even more after making them, because still, I see people dressing up like those characters. Still, that movie plays, and people dress up and sing at the screen. But I think there’s just something that speaks to people when they can act crazy. So I guess I want to make a movie that’s a little more crazy and unhinged, kind of like the films I mentioned.

You definitely have elements of that. But with genre stuff, you can sometimes be overshadowed by the inherent violence. Especially in a franchise like Saw where you’re kind of anchored to what that is.

Darren Lynn Bousman: Exactly. You couldn’t do that with something like Saw or Death of Me. That’s why in some respects, making movies like Repo… I don’t know, I’m very lucky to be able to have the career that I’ve had because, while I’ve done studio movies like the Saw films, I’ve also done indie stuff that’s just insane, like Repo! The Genetic Opera,or The Devil’s Carnival. Or, I’ve gone to Japan and shot a Japanese TV series. Or I go off and make Immersive theater for three years. So, I’ve been lucky to dabble my toes in things that I want to go do. I think it was all because of the Saw films that allowed me that freedom

You have a theatrical presentation about the things that you do. I felt like La La Land a couple of years ago kicked open the door for a new wave of musicals. Have you considered doing a straight-up musical that might not even exist in the world of horror? Be it on the stage or as a movie?

Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, it’s funny. I’m actually doing a podcast tomorrow just about my love of musicals, and I’ve been rewatching a lot of musicals. I think, going back to that fantastical environment that I was talking about earlier of the fantastical movies that I want to make, movies that came out of the seventies and eighties, specifically movie musicals, is one of my favorite sub-genres. If you go back and you look at things like Tommy, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jesus Christ Superstar, The apple, these movies are so over the top. So crazy, so insane. and yet the music kind of does something to make you buy-in, and you’re just there. I go back, and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Tommy, how many times I’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show, how many times I’ve seen some of these movies, Jesus Christ Superstar. I think to me, it’s all about the music. I don’t like traditional musicals. I was never a fan of Oklahoma. I was never a fan of these types of things. But if the music is good and it’s something that, like Tommy, stays with me, and I still listen to today, I still have Tommy on Repeat in my house, then absolutely. I would want to do it. But again, I would want it to be crazy. The idea of someone breaking out in song is already ridiculous. I think if you lean into that kind of absurdity to it, I would love to do more stuff like that.

People right now, theaters reopening back up. But people are and aren’t going. it’s kind of a confusing time for moviegoers. Death of me, you’re gonna have options. What makes this, no matter how one sees it, a good thing to check out right now?

Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, the first thing I’ll say is safety over narrative, so be safe. Don’t put yourself in danger for a narrative of any sort, whatever that means to you. Stay safe and don’t put yourself in Covid’s way. I mean, listen, we live in a time where it’s a dumpster fire. We live in a dumpster fire right now, between the political agenda and Covid, everything that’s going on in the world. It just seems crazy. I think that Death of Me is a fantastical kind of fever dream escapism. it’s not a happy film. I’ll say that. So if you’re looking for a couple chuckles, it’s not it. Bu, for me, I just love the escapism of it. The thing I also love about the film is how beautiful it is. We shot the film in Thailand. It’s just such a cool looking place. I think that I love anything that looks a little different. To me, it’s not a backdrop we see a lot of in films. I think our cinematographer did a fantastic job. I think it’s just a fun escapism movie.

Before we go, is there anything else you want to promote? Anything else you got coming up that you want to talk about?

Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, there’s a little movie I did coming up next May called Spiral. Definitely go see that. Right now, if you’re in for something this spooky season, since trick or treating has been banned in Los Angeles, and you’re looking for something fun to do, I have another immersive experience that will be online called One Day Die. It’s weird. It’s crazy. It’s all from the comfort of your home. You buy a ticket, a box is sent to your house and you’re given a link to click on for your showtime, and you will interact with the box. It’s put together by me, this screener named Joshua Dietz and two insanely talented magicians, Daniel Garcia and Blake Vogt, who have created this 90-minute experience, a kind of ritualistic seance experience that you’re interacting with, with this box. It’s something unique and new to do for Halloween. So I think it is a perfect double feature. Go see Death of Me and then come do One Day Die.

Death of Me arrives in theaters, On Demand and Digital October 2nd.

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