A Sense of Unearned Smug Awesomeness: Our Review of ‘To Your Last Death’

A Sense of Unearned Smug Awesomeness: Our Review of ‘To Your Last Death’

I have probably mentioned this fact innumerable times before in my writing here at In the Seats (and I’ve definitely mentioned it with aplomb over on Letterboxd), but it bears repeating that I strongly dislike the process of disliking films. There is, I feel, a misconception that critics revel in the ability to write a scathing review of a film; a fantasy upheld by many fans (and some directors) who really, really want to protect the sanctity of their Batman movie. In actuality, this is rarely the case.

Generally speaking, critics are generally quite honest. It is with a heavy heart that I must honestly admit that I was not a fan of Jason Axinn’s To Your Last Death, a film that claims to be the first 2-D animated horror film of its kind (a detail I’m fairly certain is right, and might be right for a very long time after this film). I thought it was kind of silly. I thought it was trying far too hard to be edgy. I thought a lot of things about the film, but few were good.

One of those few things was the impressive line-up of voice talent, which boasts names such as Ray Wise, William Shatner, Bill Moseley and Florence Hartigan, a cast that is in some ways a “who’s who” of voice talents. Not included in that list is Dani Lennon, who voices Miriam DeKalb. Miriam’s wretched father Cyrus (Ray Wise) summons his four children (each of whom he’s inflicted some form of horrible torment upon) to discuss his will, whereupon, once present, he kills each of them in decisively gruesome ways.

Miriam then awakens in the hospital where she meets The Gamemaster (Deadpool’s Morena Baccarin), who gleefully sends her back in time to avenge the deaths of her siblings. Thus, this adult animated feature becomes The Edge of Tomorrow meets Saw meets A Scanner Darkly, which you can definitely throw on some advertising material somewhere. What transpires from that point is a Game of Death styled descent into hell, where Miriam must find a way to extract revenge and survive the night, battling her tyrannical tycoon father, her siblings, and fate itself.

Another one of those few things is the performance of Lennon, who supposedly spent hours recording guttural screams and grunts. You can definitely tell that this was a big day at the studio, because the film’s second half gives Miriam very little dialogue, instead preferring to have her scream a lot over chainsaw noises. The chainsaw suggests Hooper—the direction for the performance Marilyn Burns. Neither seems to be effectively used though, a frustrating shame. There’s more to Texas Chainsaw than screaming and a chainsaw. Even Rob Zombie is aware of that.

Mostly, it’s hard to take To Your Last Death seriously. I’ve come to feel a very particular way about time loop films; few of them succeed, and most of them fail because they’re far too preoccupied with establishing the loop and how characters might get out of it. In reality, they should be using the loop as a metaphor for character growth. This unfortunately falls far too hard into that trap. On top of that, there’s a sense of unearned smug awesomeness that seems to coat this like a sticky film. Really, I don’t care how gory this ends up becoming. But you might, and you probably know who you are. The best thing I can say about To Your Last Death is that it’s very unique. There are truly few films like it. I’d rather have said lots of nice things about it though.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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