Director Jason Axinn’s animated gore fest is “Funny Games,” meets “Saw” meets Twilight Zone’s “The Masks” wrapped up in one sick sadistic mutant. It’s gory, and vicious and mean spirited and occasionally baffling, but damned if I didn’t have a good time with it. There’s just something about watching the wealthy tear each other apart that hits a nerve, and “To Your Last Death” is a movie that has fun with its own concept. Not only does Jason Axinn break the conventional narrative, but he uses it as a means of bringing the ugliest sides out of his characters.
Miriam Dekalb’s father Cyrus is the premier arms dealer in the world, and she is running a failed nonprofit dedicated to peace. When Miriam and her siblings, the adult Dekalb children are invited to meet with their father, their expectations of conversations about money transform in to a nightmare when Cyrus reveals intentions to subject his kids to various death traps of his own making. Miriam is the only survivor of the brutal attack and is also the prime suspect in their deaths, That is until a mysterious woman offers her the chance to do it all again and change the outcome. Miriam has two hours to change her gory fate, all the while navigating the changing rules of her mysterious benefactor.
“To Your Last Death” certainly won’t be for everyone (kids need not apply), but it certainly is a fun and twisted little demon that I had a great time with. “To Your Last Death” is a tight horror movie that revels in its sadism left and right. Everyone from Cyrus to Miriam seems to have a great time doling out pain and blood soaked endings, and there’s nary a moment where someone isn’t covered in splatter. Axinn makes great use of his cast, grabbing great performances by Dani Lennon, Morena Baccarin and Ray Wise, respectively. Lennon is particularly great as Miriam, lending a lot of depth to a character that always seems to be working on ones of gray. Miriam is nevertheless a great protagonist despite questionable decisions, as she seems be working for good intentions.
Sadly she is suffering from the trauma of domestic abuse like her siblings. The problem is she’s not inflicting her pain on to others like her siblings, but seeks to compensate for that error when she’s confronted by the Game Master. Co-writers Tanya C. Klein and Jim Cirile introduce some terrible people, but also manage to create some truly despicable villains, all of whom have seemingly zero moral compass; I especially loved Jurek, voiced by Steve Geiger, who could very well have been a maniac in his own horror movie. Geiger has a lot to work with in this characters’ skin and he make him a memorable psycho. Granted “To Your Last Death” is messy, as Axinn never quite explains a lot of what’s going on in the narrative.
There’s ambiguity and then there’s just lazy plot elements thrown in for the hell of it. I refer to William Shatner’s confusing opening and closing narration, and the whole goal for the Game master and the committee she was working with. Was Shatner supposed to be God? The Devil? Was he a throwback to Rod Serling? Who or what is the Game Master? Is she the devil? And what of the whole fake out involving Miriam’s dwindling insanity? Was this all one big delusion? And is there a sequel down the road with another morally gray scenario? In either case, while “To Your Last Death” sags in some areas, it’s a great horror amalgam with a brisk pacing, vicious splatter, and some creative plot devices all around.