William Shatner as The Overseer
Morena Baccarin as Gamemaster
Ray Wise as Cyrus DeKalb
Bill Moseley as Pavel
Dani Lennon as Miriam DeKalb
Florence Hartigan as Kelsy DeKalb
Damien Haas as Ethan DeKalb
Ben Siemon as Colin DeKalb
Mark Whitten as Walt, Razor Sharp
Directed by Jason Axinn; Co-Written by Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klein
To Your Last Death Review:
Of the many unique angles the horror film genre has taken over the past century, one of the least explored is the world of animation, a world generally relegated to children’s movies or experimental adult pieces and now Jason Axinn has tried his hand at the feature film world with the blood-soaked To Your Last Death and while it can’t quite live up to some of its lofty story ambitions, it proves to be a plenty fun ride for horror enthusiasts.
After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her father to punish his children, Miriam receives an offer from a supernatural entity to go back in time and try again. Now, Miriam must survive both her father’s blood lust and the Gamemaster’s ever-changing rules to save her siblings as she relives the worst night of her life.
The opening of the film does a great job of throwing the viewer head first into its story as Miriam barely escapes the horrifying ordeal her father has just put her through before quickly being introduced to the mysterious and twisty Gamemaster and the twisty change of events she’s setting up for the rest of the film. But as the film jumps back a bit in time and allows audiences to get a better look at just who the protagonist is and what she stands for, the writing proves to be a little lackluster and all over the map.
We’re given plenty of glimpses that Miriam is a genuinely good-hearted character with the best of intentions for her and her siblings as to why she goes to meet her father alongside them, but the second we’re introduced to her siblings we start to see the seams fall apart and a more problematic relationship between them all that’s less complex and more lackluster. Though they haven’t been given the same jaw-dropping introduction as Miriam, the group all quickly devolve into cardboard character tropes that align with their too-familiar designs that make for really uninteresting characters hard to root for.
The patriarch of the family, an interesting combination of megalomaniacal businessman Donald Trump and calculating John Kramer aka Jigsaw, is fairly standardly written but plays out as a remarkably enjoyable antagonist from start to finish. An endlessly monologuing sociopath whose accusations against his children are flimsy and juvenile and though it may not be anything new, it’s a nice B-movie villain that is voiced by Ray Wise in deliciously hammy fashion that makes him fun and easy to root against.
But it’s also this sense of B-movie goodness that sometimes hinders the potential of its time-bending plot and actually spawns some cornier dialogue and heavy-metal, edge lord humor that isn’t far enough on either side of the spectrum of sincerity or tongue-in-cheek to resonate and frequently falls flat. Another of the film’s major flaws comes from its art style, which sees some characters given unique and really interesting designs while others are given simplistic and bland ones and the animation itself feeling very stiff that can kill the momentum of a number of scenes.
That being said, given the really vibrant and ambitious nature of a number of its set pieces and traps, To Your Last Death is a film that if given a minimal live-action budget would have been a large disappointment and therefore makes the best of its low-budget animation to deliver some gruesome thrills sure to excite horror genre enthusiasts looking for a unique new take on the terror of torture.