To Your Last Death is a foray into animated horror from director Jason Axinn and written by Tanya Klein & Jim Cirile.
“After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her father to punish his children, Miriam (Dani Lennon) receives an offer from a supernatural entity to go back in time and try again. Now, Miriam must survive both her father’s (Ray Wise) blood lust and the Gamemaster’s (Morena Baccarin) ever-changing rules to save her siblings as she relives the worst night of her life”
Animation hasn’t really been explored much in the Horror genre up to this point; the theory being that scares are simply not as effective in animation when compared with Live Action and even CGI sequences may not seem as ‘real’ to the audience as practical stunts and effects.
While the film-makers don’t necessarily disprove this theory entirely it is a valiant effort with an impressive voice cast and bold art direction from Carl Frank. The animation tends more towards the abstract rather than hyper-realism (black & white sequences and blood splatters on the screen for example) and really gives the feel of a noir graphic novel complete with panel views – so much so that you could be forgiven that this was a film adapted from a graphic novel; but is in-fact an original work.
The animation style is reminiscent of the TV show Archer and 90s animated shows such as Batman The Animated series.
Whilst the film has it’s share of blood, gore and SAW-style ‘games’ this is not excessive and the film it more driven by it’s plot and characters than the action sequences; the plot even offers a few classic twists and turns that will keep you guessing. That being said the supernatural elements of the story do feel a little shoe-horned in at times with Morenna Baccarin’s ‘Gamemaster’ feeling like a plot device where she appears and William Shatner’s extended cameo as narrator feels like an un-necessary add-on. Most of the film rests on Dani Lennon’s ‘Miriam’ who gives an admirable performance and we get to see a full journey from her character. There was also a good effort to provide some character development for Miriam’s siblings and even the cartoonish henchmen of her father (Ray Wise); who plays the villain of the piece. This kind of character development is often sadly lacking from genre film. Ray Wise gives us an instant classic carton villain with his exquisite performance as the menacing, scheming and heartless Cyrus DeKalb; but there is also a deeper story theme here that shows us these disparate characters are torn between looking after their own interests and bonding together as a family (even if it’s a broken one).
The film is released on Digital/VOD on March 17th.