Megan Fox vs. Toxic Men: The Scream Queen is Back in the Methodical and Worthy ‘Till Death’

A still from 'Till Death'. Emma (Megan Fox), is shown centre frame, in a mid shot. She is sat at the bottom of some stairs wearing a white shirt and loose bow tie, covered in blood. The shirt is doused as is her face, her beautiful curled hair still falls gracefully around her face. A man's naked body is visible in the bottom left hand side of the image.
Screen Media

It’s been 12 years since Megan Fox became a horror icon when Jennifer’s Body premiered, and now she’s back to continue that tradition with her first starring role in horror since 2009. In director S.K. Dale’s Till Death, Megan Fox plays Emma, a survivor of a violent street-assault and woman caught in a toxic marriage. The film opens with Emma attempting to set things right with her husband by breaking up with a man named Tom (Aml Ameen) whom she was seeing on the side. After a celebratory dinner, her husband (Eoin Macken) drives her to an isolated lake-house where, as the genre demands, a gruesome event occurs (and one that admittedly has complicated implications for mental health depictions). In the aftermath, Emma finds herself handcuffed to a dead man’s body and has to search the property for a means of escape. As the situation becomes even more complicated, Emma must outsmart and outmaneuver the obstacles she faces in order to survive. In terms of style, Till Death fits into a thriller-horror subgenre, and evokes some other recent notable horror films, including the icy wasteland of The Lodge, the necessity of elusiveness in home invasion narratives like Hush, and the tenacious survival instincts of The Invisible Man

Till Death is, overall, an extended metaphor about a woman trapped in an abusive marriage, leaving her “dragging” around dead-weight. In fact, in an Instagram post, Fox captioned a photo still of herself from the movie with “Lessons on how to escape a toxic relationship.” Although Emma’s husband isn’t physically violent at the start, he still exhibits physical control of his wife, including demanding she change dresses for their anniversary dinner because she isn’t initially wearing his favourite (which is notably blood red). For anyone who’s lived through or witnessed intimate partner abuse, these red flags add up. Some of the film’s metaphors for misogyny often do feel heavy-handed and, at worst, cheesy, but I appreciated the efforts to relate to women’s struggles that the director and writer put forward to represent an important issue. These awkward metaphors may feel ironic but never quite swerve into campiness, but considering the overall visual bleak tone of the film, this absence of camp helps Till Death feel more cohesive and serious about its subject matter.

A still from 'Till Death'. Emma (Megan Fox) is shown in a wide shot, sat on the floor by a large wooden king size bed, handcuffed to a dead and bloodied man on the floor. She is wearing a satin set of pajamas and screaming, tugging on the handcuffs.
Screen Media

The film begins with some stiff performance choices and a somewhat-static framing of Emma’s predicament, but definitely improves across its runtime. A lot of her early problem-solving attempts feel systematically procedural and mundane rather than truly tense and dramatic. By the end of the film, however, some of these directing choices do make sense. Considering Emma is dragging around a stiff body for a sizable amount of the runtime, the dullness of her minute-by-minute efforts and their lack of spectacle work to mirror the daily grind women must often weather through when it comes to managing the effects of misogyny. That strenuous effort is present, in different ways and intensities, whether it be in abusive intimate partnership or in broader societies continuing to struggle with feminist progress. When the final act begins, it doesn’t relent, leading up to a narratively-satisfying conclusion. The climax is a stellar piece of both storytelling and cinematography that gives the film a blast of energy.

Even for viewers who may not like the beat-by-beat direction of the entirety of Till Death, the grit of the film’s final act can still satisfy those craving to see a willful woman grapple with the metaphorical and material repercussions of patriarchal violence. Despite its shortcomings, it’s impossible not to recommend Till Death to feminist horror and suspense fans, particularly those excited to see the iconic Megan Fox back in the genre. She does not disappoint, and neither does the film in giving her room to shine. Considering the love for Megan Fox and the popularity and need for feminist horror, Till Death might prove to become something of an indie hit. Honestly, it just feels great to get to say “Welcome back, Scream Queen Megan.”

Till Death is available in select cinemas and on VOD from July 2nd

by Bishop V Navarro

Bishop V. Navarro (they/she) is a poet, writer, and media studies scholar from Tampa, Florida. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida and currently pursues a PhD in Communication at USF. Her scholarly work examines boundary vulnerability in horror and science fiction media. You can find her on Twitter, Letterboxd, Instagram, and Tumblr @vnavarrowriter 

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