If I could write a review that was only two words long for To Your Last Death it would be: friggin awesome. If I could just leave it at that I would, but instead, let me walk you through a somewhat longer review that should compel you to check out this killer animated film.
To Your Last Death is an awesome mix of The Belko Experiment, You’re Next, and Ready of Not with the animation style of FX’s Archer. We follow Miriam DeKalb (Dani Lennon) who is the daughter of a psychotic war-profiteer Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise). She is the sole survivor of a brutal murder of her brothers and sister that takes place after the family gathers at her father’s office building. Arrested and presumed to be the killer, Miriam’s nightmare becomes a twisted game, as she is forced to relive the whole night. The twisted game is now orchestrated by the Gamemaster (Morena Baccarin) who will make sure that the night is anything but fair. Now, Miriam must learn to adapt to a game that is ever-changing, or maybe it is all in her head.
Adult animation doesn’t often get the credit it deserves for being a source of innovative and thrilling cinema. Without being beholden to a PG rating and animation being a freeing medium to do whatever one conjures up in their mind, To Your Last Death is a friendly reminder of how awesome animation is. Screenwriters Tanya C. Klein and Jim Cirile have written a film that fits neatly into the niche genre of “folks being forced to play a deadly game against their will”, films like the ones I listed above. However, by having it be an animated film it becomes a distinct and entirely new experience that stands on its own.
This film has several things working in its favour that make it stand out from other adult animated horrors. The story could have been adapted into any manner of animation styles, but the minimalist approach was just right for this one. The bloodshed and violence never feel too excessive, although it is still very much shocking and grotesque.
The story unfolds in a way that isn’t bogged down by overly complicated explanations about the family or their personal dramas. Director Jason Axinn always has us on our toes and keeps the momentum of the film going, even when the story slows down for brief intervals of character and plot exposition.
One of the ways the film keeps us engaged is that it plays like an animated comic with flashbacks and dramatic beats shown in a stylised manner that differs from the rest of the animation. Just as comic panels showcasing breaks from the main story are coloured or drawn differently to indicate exposition. These breaks from the current narrative are quick and brief. Giving us an understanding of what’s at stake for our characters and what their motivations are. The clever animation matched beautifully with a lean and mean a script makes for fun and wild ride.
Just like the Gamemaster herself, the folks behind the scenes put on a great show that entertains and shocks you, but they don’t reveal all of the answers. However, there is no fun to be had with a film that drops everything to explain it’s full mythology. To Your Last Death is an immensely entertaining animated film that does exactly what it needs to do.
To Your Last Death is available on Digital on March 17th
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa Abdi is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick