[Review] Style and Substance Found in Animated Film To Your Last Death

A rich and ruthless business tycoon, Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise), informed that he only has so long to live, gathers together his estranged children for a final family meeting, but instead of making amends he tries to murder each of them using complicated deathtraps worthy of a Saw movie.

Sounds interesting, right? Now, what if instead of a ‘normal’ movie the story was told using animation. Still want to see it?

The answer, if the film is To Your Last Death, is a definite heck yeah!

Directed by Jason Axinn, whose IMDB resume runs the gamut from filming the Iron Man 2 table read to something called Donkey Kong Kill Screen, To Your Last Death uses a highly stylized form of animation to tell its tale, one most people will be familiar with from watching those motion comic books that were popular a few years ago. (Marvel Knights: Ultimate Wolverine VS Hulk is a good example.) The art is nowhere as detailed as the animation you will find in your typical Pixar or Disney release; you won’t sit in wonder at just how detailed every hair on every character’s head looks as it waves in the breeze. The hair on the characters in To Your Last Death doesn’t seem to move at all. Their bodies are stiff and they move in stilted ways that can be distracting until you get used to it. Luckily, the story is good enough, and the voice acting strong enough, to let you get completely immersed in the action very quickly. And once you do, To Your Last Death turns into one hell of a ride.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that there is more to the family meeting than just a deadly dad trying to murder his children. As the oldest sibling Miriam (Dani Lennon) lies recovering in a hospital bed, the only survivor of her father’s bloody butchering of her family, she is approached by a statuesque brunette called The Gamemaster (Morena Baccarin, Deadpool) who offers her a chance to go back and relive the last 24 hours of her life armed with the knowledge of what her father plans to do. All she has to do it ‘make it entertaining’ since the brunette represents a group of astral gamblers will be betting on whether she is successful or not.

She agrees and the gory games begin. Miriam soon discovers that knowing what happened in the past isn’t the all-powerful advantage she imagined it would be. She may have enhanced hindsight, but nobody else does and they aren’t exactly eager to team up with her simply because she tells them to. The bad blood in the DeKalb clan runs deep and everyone with that last name is more than happy to spill a lot of it to be the last one standing. And anytime the four children seem ready to set aside their past differences and join forces against dear old deadly dad, The Gamemaster is happy to step in and set them back at each others’ throats.

To Your Last Death has all the elements of a successful genre movie. It looks amazing and has a plot with plenty of believable twists. Even with only four characters, the body count is high (thanks to the way The Gamemaster plays with time) and the kills are both interesting and intense. The actors all do a great job, although the weird omniscient voiceover by William Shatner is a bit much because it adds so little to the story. So if all that is stopping you from watching it is the fact that it’s an animated movie, then get over yourself and give it a chance.

  • John Black, To Your Last Death
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.