In order to save her siblings, a young woman takes on her father and the powerful entity, known as Gamemaster, who ensnares humans into diabolical plots while her species gambles on the outcome.
Something animated this way comes in Coverage, Ink studios and director Jason Axinn’s thriller, To Your Last Death (2019). From all of the what the f*ck-ness in the trailer I knew I would be in for quite a ride, and the film did not disappoint. This family drama, steeped in blood, is a unique new entry into the animated horror genre thanks in large part to its original narrative, written by Tanya Klein and Jim Cirile, and its art direction and modern animation style from the well-known RPG artist, Carl Frank. In the works since 2015, the film is set to finally make its world premiere at Arrow FrightFest (UK) on August 23rd and then the Big Apple Film Festival (US) on August 28th.
In To Your Last Death, the minimalist animation aesthetic of Archer meets the twisted and bloody games of Saw meets the comedic overseers of Rat Race to create a thrill ride like no other. This movie is nuts! But in an amazing way. To Your Last Death has set a new goal post for animated horror and thrillers, which all too often are lighter fare movies from which children can safely get a dosage of horror. This one is for the adults, it is rated R after all, and I don’t recall having seen so much in your face bloodshed in animation and psychological play since the likes of Perfect Blue. This movie might rely more on the carnage than the psychological aspects that it tries to instill in its narrative, but I’m not complaining; I was on the edge of my seat as this family drama unfolded.
The film follows “The Dekalb family, trapped in a nightmare of their own making, struggling to survive as the playing field ungulates beneath their feet. A petri dish of mutually assured destruction.” The family’s patriarch, Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise), was an abusive father and husband, and maintain’s the family wealth by being a brutal businessman in the war trade racket. When he learns of his impending death due to an inoperable brain tumor, Cyrus calls his children — social activist Miriam (Dani Lennon), financier Colin (Ben Siemon), trophy-wife Kelsy (Florence Hartigan), and musician Ethan (Damien Haas) — to his offices under the guise of discussing his legacy. The children soon find that their father wants to deal one last blow by killing them off because of their failures in life and in service to his ego, however, Miriam escapes the massacre, though her history of psychosis lands her as suspect #1 in her siblings’ deaths. A mysterious and omnipresent woman who goes by name Gamemaster appears to Miriam, offering her a chance to go back in time to save her siblings from their evil father, however, she must do so as a pawn for the entertainment of supernatural beings who are gambling on her odds of winning (or losing). When Miriam decides to play the game, she finds herself not only up against her diabolical father but also up against the Gamemaster’s changing rules in the name of making the game more amusing. Armed with the foreknowledge of her father’s plans, and an ax, Miriam battles through psychological, supernatural, and familial setbacks in order to save her siblings and herself from an office building full of horrors and henchmen.
Voiceover talents were from the likes of Ray Wise (Twin Peaks!), Morena Baccarin (Deadpool), William freaking Shatner (Star Trek: TOS!), Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses), Dani Lennon (Bite Me), Florence Hartigan (Phoenix Forgotten), Damien Haas (We Bare Bears), Ben Siemon (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). All of these actors gave brilliant voiceover performances, which broke through the animation to create lively characters that felt almost human and visceral imagery due to their layered and profoundly sorrowful backstories. This was a great feat achieved by first time director Jason Axinn, who made this with an estimated budget of only $2.5M — small change for a stateside made animated film. With horror, sci-fi elements, dark comedy, family drama, and badass female heroes and villains creating this exciting animated venture that takes place over one crazy night, To Your Last Death is lighting in a bottle — I watched this bloody family reunion on replay.
Who would have thought that one of the most entertaining, gruesome, and thrilling movies of the year would be a cartoon? If you’re a fan of Archer or the animated sci-fi epic Heavy Metal (1981), if you like disgusting death scenes, if you find humor in cool takedown lines, or if you just like awesome movies in general, To Your Last Death should be on your on watchlist! It is game, set, match with this film, and summed up by director Jason Axinn, “You have no idea what you’re in for. This film will knock you on your ass.”