Sometimes I wish movies came with a definitive “Stop” button, like Dave Chappelle’s “Wrap It Up” device. I’ve seen too many directors botch their film’s ending by thinking audiences want to be barraged by as many twists as possible, prolonging the inevitable. M. Night Shyamalan has polluted the minds of so many up-and-coming writers/directors who cram twists and turns in the clunkiest of fashions, because for some reason society has interpreted The Sixth Sense as “GIVE ME ALL OF THE PLOT TWISTS!” Here’s the problem – twists only work when monumentally awesome. A twist that remains hidden for ninety minutes then blows an audience member’s mind Scanners style is worthy of such manipulation, but the overly foreshadowed reveal coming too-little-too-late has become absolutely laughable – and unfortunately that’s what curses Death Do Us Part. OK, sorry, WAY more absurdity destroys this slasher wanna-be, but a perfect ending is almost achieved until beaten to death by ambitious scribes.
Nostalgic feelings of repetitive story-recapping are already kicking in, but I’ll truck ahead anyway – Kennedy Jamieson (Julia Benson) just got engaged to the love of her life, Ryan Harris (Peter Benson). Deciding to do a joint bachelor/bachelorette party, both are accompanied by two guests to a secluded cabin getaway located on Lake Nowhere (not a real lake, just a poor joke). Much like a billion films before, it turns out that each guest is hiding a devious secret, and when people start dying, our guests frantically try to uncover the killer. Could it be an urban legend haunting the forest? The creepy cabin owner who won’t leave them the hell alone? Or one of the very people Kennedy and Peter trusted the most?!
Yes, you should be skeptical from the get go. An indie horror film about people stranded in the woods with no cell phone service and a killer on the loose – where have I seen this before? Sure, I could list about 30 billion titles right now to prove a point, and yes, Death Do Us Part follows the same, tired arc of so many films before – except with more malicious intent. Where sometimes we might root for a character to live, every one of these hateful bastards deserves to die. Husband Ryan? Bastard, wish he was dead from the start. Friend Chet? Fratty bastard, a useless sod. Kennedy’s sister Hannah? Jealous bastard, what a bitch. Every single one of these characters establishes motives to be the killer, but each scenario becomes insanely more laughable as more “secrets” are uncovered. Hell, the only character worth backing is a bro-ish drunkard who forces himself on women – yup, really dragging the lake here personality wise.
Then there’s the utter lifelessness that carries on for about an hour before anything remotely interesting happens, as our killer stays dormant for far too long. Deaths aren’t stretched out to create tension, instead jam-packing all excitable action into about 20 minutes worth of running around pitch black woods. A simple mountain man, the same creepy yokel who leaves dead birds on the patio when leading in potential renters, spends Death Do Us Part slinking around his house, walking in and out as he pleases. Right, utterly moronic to begin with, as our characters never once think to leave or report the potential deviant repeatedly seen letting himself in or poking his head between tree branches. What could be one of the absolute worst red herrings in horror sucks the life out of mysterious thriller, removing every ounce of mystery and every cheap, lame thrill. That’s all the horror we’re given for about an hour – Jethro peeking in windows. Pants-wetting terror right there.
Julia and Peter Benson also pull double duty here as writers, creating one ending that concludes this slack thriller on a relatively high note, and another that wanders lifelessly down a path of mediocrity. Instead of choosing just one ending, we get both a high and a low goodbye, revealing the killer then dragging their appearance out one scene too long. There’s a brief moment where all the bland partying, overly evil actions, and recycled “horror” seem somehow worthwhile, a moment that Death Do Us Part quickly realizes and ruins.
Horror is such a hard genre to master, despite so many actors and directors using slasher flicks as a launching pad for their careers, but what audiences don’t realize is the multitude of projects that fall to the wayside attempting similar “get rich quick” schemes. Death Do Us Part is just another effortless slasher in a long line of repetitive films, making the same mistakes that previous failures so valiantly attempted to weather. Foolish characters, winded story building, obvious tricks, and a failure to wrap on cue destroys everything this perfect couple hopes for, but this is all sadly predictable once every horrid stereotype rears its ugly head – an infectious, parasitic ugliness.
Once Death Do Us Part starts making the same horror mistakes that so many have made before, this wedding party comes to a screeching, violent halt.