To Your Last Death, directed by Jason Axinn, is a 2D-animated horror movie that starts where other films in the genre typically end. Miriam DeKalb (Dani Lennon) is the final girl in a sadistic game created by her father, Cyrus (Ray Wise), to get revenge on her and her estranged siblings. She’s injured and traumatized in the aftermath, so when a supernatural entity known only as the Gamemaster (Morena Baccarin) offers her the chance to go back in time to the beginning of the night and save her brothers and sister based on her foreknowledge of what happens, Miriam agrees. But the Gamemaster doesn’t play fair. To spice up the event and make things interesting for the other supernatural entities betting on the outcome, she manipulates the players involved and presses rewind when she sees fit, leading Miriam to do things she never anticipated.
The main source of horror in the movie is the incredibly gory deaths the characters suffer. The scenarios Cyrus sets up that lead to the demise of his children evoke the Saw franchise, and the graphic violence throughout takes its cues from torture porn. Yet while the blood and guts is gasp-worthy, the movie isn’t particularly scary.
There’s an off-kilter sensibility to the proceedings that cause To Your Last Death to skew towards humor more than fright. The script, by Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klein, puts over-the-top dialogue in the mouths of many of its characters. Something that likely wouldn’t work if this were a live-action film. Because this is animation, the movie gets away with it, but that doesn’t make it less laughable. Plus, there are several visuals that may or may not have been intended as sight-gags, including great white sharks circling seals in a fish tank and a gratuitous scene where Miriam has a serious conversation while her big bare cartoon breasts are on display.
To Your Last Death makes overtures at touching on something deeper. As Miriam — who runs a nonprofit that advocates for peace — lives through the same night repeatedly, her foreknowledge of her father’s plans can’t help her control her siblings’ reactions to the situation. And as things change and evolve, Miriam’s responses to the extreme circumstances ultimately lead her to reveal sides of herself she never knew existed. There’s also a nod to Miriam’s struggles with mental health. While some characters suspect she’s having a psychotic break, the movie never takes this possibility seriously so neither will viewers.
The animation is reminiscent of the TV series Archer. It looks great, but it also means the movie never quite penetrates. It’s impossible to forget you’re watching drawings, so when a character loses their head or goes splat, it’s still just a drawing. The movie also doesn’t delve especially deep into the characters. While we get glimpses of the backstories of Miriam and her siblings, there’s not enough to lead to a real emotional investment in her or any of the other characters — no matter how horrific their situation gets.
That said, the vocal performers do what they can with the material. The movie boasts several big-name actors, including Wise and Baccarin who equip themselves well as the despicable Cyrus and diabolical Gamemaster. Lennon also does an impressive job. Miriam could have been cloying and irritating, but Lennon invests the character with enough grit and determination to at least get the audience on her side. Best of all, though, is William Shatner as the story’s narrator, whose familiar dulcet tones evoke The Twilight Zone creator and narrator Rod Serling. Shatner injects just the right amount of menace into his calm narrative commentary, even though most of what he says amounts to philosophical mumbo jumbo.
Ultimately, To Your Last Death is a diverting film that doesn’t quite succeed. Between the mystical interference of the Gamemaster, Cyrus’ horrific punishment of his children and Miriam’s journey, the movie has way too much going on. And as a result, it never manages to do justice to any of those elements. This prevents the movie from being truly satisfying. Despite those flaws, however, if you’re looking for a unique horror flick that will also be good for a few laughs, you could do a lot worse than To Your Last Death.
To Your Last Death, directed by Jason Axinn and written by Tanya C. Kline and Jim Cirile, stars Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise, Dani Lennon, Bill Moseley and William Shatner. The film is now available on digital and VOD.
Animated horror film To Your Last Death is graphically gory, but ultimately more funny than scary.