Director: Jason Axinn
Starring: Morena Baccarin, Dani Lennon, William Shatner, Ray Wise, Bill Moseley
Run Time: 91 mins
Now here is something you don’t see every day, an animated horror film. There is a tradition of Japanese anime horror films, but western animated horror is incredibly rare. Thus giving Jason Axinn’s debut feature some novelty factor. Although the film itself is less novel, mashing up as it does several familiar elements. Imagine Saw meets Archer meets Happy Death Day with some extra sci-fi flare. Not that that familiarity impede it being a splattery good time.
After some wry narration from William Shatner, the movie opens in with a bloody Miriam DeKalb (Dani Lennon) as she escapes from her father Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise) office building. She is arrested and claims that her father tried to have her murdered along with successfully murdering her three siblings. Not that the police are buying any of that. Luckily (?) Miriam is given an offer by a mysterious cosmic figure called The Gamemaster (a delightful Morena Baccarin) to go back in time and save her siblings. But only if she agrees to her rules where the Gamemaster can change the game at any time for the amusement of the cosmic gamblers betting on the outcome of all this bloody carnage.
What follows from here is a mixture of action-horror (as Miriam plays a bloody game of cat-and-mouse with her father hired killers), torture porn (Caleb has set up a series of elaborate killing machines for each sibling and taunts them via an intercom) and sci-fi screwiness (as the Gamemaster toys with Miriam making her replay certain scenarios).
As mentioned there are several borrowed elements, and the plot suffers a little from overfamiliarity. Also, like any film with a “Groundhog’s Day” narrative, there is always a danger of the repetition becoming. Thankfully, that is not the case here as each repeated scene has enough fresh elements to keep things skipping along.
It would be true to say while there are weaknesses here pacing is not one as from the moment Miriam goes back in time we never more than a few minutes from a moment of memorable goriness. The action and gore being one of the key strengths here. Particularly when the siblings banded together to take on the hired killers. That being said, the action set pieces are better than the torture porn ones, which felt a little overly drawn-out. Even if Ray Wise is at his smarmily evil best when taunting the siblings.
Also, further in terms of pacing whenever the movie slows down (which isn’t that often) it suffers. Many of the dramatic beats and attempts of pathos fall a little flat. Mainly because outside of Miriam few of the characters are fleshed out. This element is particularly frustrating with the Gamemaster, who is an annoyingly oblique presence despite Baccarin’s wonderful performance. However, Miriam does, in large part, make up for the lack of character development elsewhere as she makes for a genuinely rootable and vulnerable heroine who you want to survive this twisted game.
Visually the film is interesting too as while, mostly, the movie looks like early Archer there are a couple of different animation styles used including one which feels reminiscent of Sin City. And it would be fair to say it has the feel of a comic book come to life.
It is also clear the all-star vocal talent is clearly having a whale of a time chewing the scenery. Wise, Baccarin, Shatner (as the omnipotent narrator), and Bill Moseley (as deformed henchmen Pavel) all delivering. Away from the action and the gore there are also several neat black comic touches. And like any good action movie, it also comes armed with some memorable one-liners.
Overall: Despite some overfamiliar elements and dramatic deficiencies, “To Your Last Death” is a fun blast of action-horror mayhem that features several inventive deaths and moments of quality dark humour. There is also enough intrigue around the Gamemaster that wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel.
You can watch the "To Your Last Death" trailer here
You can watch "To Your Last Death" on Amazon Prime here and it will be available on Blu-Ray from October 6th.