Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Jason Axinn, To Your Last Death is a new animated horror film with a unique and energetic style. However, despite all of the visual creativity that Axinn brings to the table, the script by Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klein is simply too uneven for the movie to be the midnight movie it seems to hope to be.
The film tells the story of a young woman who finds herself in the grasp of an omniscient and manipulative being, forcing her into a brutal game of cat-and-mouse with the hopes of saving her siblings from their diabolical father. The result plays out in a way that almost feels like an even edgier (and more ridiculous) version of Battle Royale, and not in a particularly flattering way.
One thing that the movie doesn’t lack is narrative momentum. The film gets off to a quick start, and from that point on, it’s a full-on sprint to the finish line. There are a lot of really great moments throughout, but the movie never really lets them play out to their full potential, instead opting to rush into another set piece.
There are a lot of moments in the film that simply couldn’t have been done in a live-action format, and as such, the animation allows Cirile and Klein to flex their creativity in creating some truly bonkers horror situations. Admittedly, the comic-like nature of the visuals does diminish the emotional impact that some of the scenes could have, but the movie is undeniably brutal nevertheless.
On a technical level, Axinn doesn’t really bring any completely new ideas to the table, but he merges a lot of existing ideas and presents them in an unusual way. By creating an animated torture porn horror film, Axinn has given horror hounds something that they never really knew they needed, but will likely still enjoy nonetheless.
Arguably the movie’s biggest issue, though, is its character development. The protagonist simply isn’t very interesting. She’s a conventional horror heroine, and given the unconventional nature of the visual style, one would hope that Cirile and Klein would have brought more complexity to the script. Furthermore, the world-building of the film is mediocre and will often draw the viewer out of the movie.
That said, the voice cast does a very good job bringing their characters to life. Dani Lennon voices the protagonist with a great deal of wit and sarcasm, creating the attachment that the audience will have with the character. Ray Wise is fittingly hammy as the film’s main villain, and while underused, Morena Baccarin’s voice suits the secondary antagonist well. The most questionable casting choice is the use of William Shatner in an arguably unnecessary role as the narrator.
To Your Last Death has a lot of issues with its script, and many of them keep the movie from being as enjoyable as it has the potential to be. Still, this is inarguably a very unique visual feat, and that makes it worth a watch.
To Your Last Death hits VOD on March 17.