31st May2021

Grimmfest May Madness: ‘To Your Last Death’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Morena Baccarin, William Shatner, Ray Wise, Bill Moseley, Damien C. Haas, Dani Lennon, Benjamin Siemon, Florence Hartigan, Austin Bitikofer | Written by Jim Cirile, Tanya C. Klein | Directed by Jason Axinn

[NOTE: With the film screening as part of this months Grimmfest May madness event, here’s a reposting of our review of To The Last Death from it’s US release last year]

Part Archer, part animated digital “motion” comic, the art style of To Your Last Death makes it feel like you’re watching a page of the old Tales From the Crypt come to life in animated form. Though in terms of story To Your Last Death has a lot more in common with the morality plays of British comic strips like The Thirteenth Floor…

After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her dying father to punish his four children, Miriam receives an offer from the Gamemaster, an otherworldly supernatural entity, to go back in time and try again. But the Game master only entraps hapless humans into diabolical conflicts for her species to gamble on the outcome. So now Miriam must not only survive her father’s blood lust but also the Gamemaster’s ever-changing rules as she relives the worst night of her life.

The big selling point of To Your Last Death, besides the fact this is the first adult animation to have come out of the US in years, is the voice cast – led by sci-fi stalwarts William Shatner and Morena Baccarin. Despite that though I couldn’t help but feel that William Shatner’s voiceover seems tacked-on, post production, to give To Your Last Death something more of a Twilight Zone vibe; Shatner’s all-knowing dialogue reflecting that of Rod Serling’s classic monologues of old.

Don’t get me wrong, Shatner’s voiceover certainly adds a LOT to the creep-factor of the film, giving it an extra layer of depth that otherwise might not have been there – after all, besides the tons of [animated] blood and guts there’s very little to Jason Axinn’s feature. It’s basically another Hostel/Saw clone but this time involving a demented father figure… Oh and some out-of-place intergalactic gamblers betting on the lives of this films “players”. It’s like watching the gods of Clash of the Titans argue over who to kill next and why the last kill wasn’t a explicit and over the top as the last!

Unfortunately the animation style of To Your Last Death is hit and miss. There are some SUPERB moments in the film where characters faces are rendered in the most emotion-filled way, especially when Miriam lashes out at her captors. But then there’s some clumsily-animated parts, in particular when the characters are in motion, the fall squarely at the poor end of motion comics. Think the heyday of Flash animation and you’ll be somewhere close. But the animation doesn’t detract from the sheer nastiness of the story it portrays – if this was live action it would seriously be a boundary-pushing stomach-turner. There is gore GALORE: limbs are severed, heads decapitated, there’s self mutilation, eye-popping and so, SO much more!

Thankfully the rest of the voice acting makes up for any lapses in the animation. Dani Lennon is brilliant as Miriam, really conveying the characters sense of frustration and panic throughout the film. Meanwhile Morena Baccarin is criminally underused as the Gamesmaster, though to be fair Baccarin’s voice REALLY suits the visual stylings of her character – capturing the ‘sultry yet dangerous’ motif to a tee. The real star though is Ray Wise, as the evil patriarch of the family… His character is, for the most part, drawn to BE him. And Wise, when it comes to his performance, sounds like he’s relishing the freedom that voice acting gives. He chews the script up and spits it out with the right kind of vitriol and the perfect note of sheer dastardly-ness; so much so that you’re really rooting for Miriam and the rest of her family to truly succeed and get out of this twisted game alive!

If you’re a fan of the more adult end of animation, and films/shows such as the aformentioned Archer, along with the likes of The Maxx, Heavy Metal, Dr. Katz, Aeon Flux and The Head then To Your Last Death should be right up your proverbial alley. Just be prepared for a blood-filled ride!

***½  3.5/5

To Your Last Death screened between May 29th and today, May 31st, as part of Grimmfest’s May Madness digital event.


Comments are closed.