EVIL Presses the Reset Button For Killer Results! “To Your Last Death” reviewed! (Quiver Distribution / Blu-ray)

Miriam DeKalb has just survived a bloodbath inside her tycoon father’s high-rise, walking out shaken, bloodied, and carrying an axe.  When the police detain her in the hospital, construing a case against her for the death of her siblings and father based off her previously unhinged mental state inside a psychiatric institute, Miriam is visited by an otherworldly being known as the Gamemaster.  Miriam is given two choices:  stay at the hospital to be pursued as the murderous villain in her harrowing escape from near death or restart her traumatizing experience to save her siblings in an intergalactic wager by infinite being gamblers eager for amusement, blood, and a clear winner.  Miriam’s foreknowledge of how the events play out should give her an edge in saving her family, but the restart is the Gamemaster’s game with the Gamemaster’s rules as timelines and outcomes are determined limitless. 

“To Your Last Death” is a science fictional brawl of Darwinism in this eviscerating adult animated survival horror from director Jason Axinn.  Originally titled as “The Malevolent” during the crowd-funded Indiegogo campaign, which raised 114% above film’s budget, “To Your Last Death” is Axinn’s first full length feature from a script co-written by Jim Cirile (writer of horror-comedy “Banned”) and is the first credited work of Tanya C. Klein, both who’ve previously collaborated on the superhero short “Liberator” in 2016 starring the original Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno  With an animated direction similar to that of FX’s “Archer,” Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse,” or an even slightly more advanced version of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” but, in fact, the hand-drawn, puppetry style animation is the first ever 2-D animated horror under the meticulous art direction of Carl Frank along with lead artists Luca Romano and Vicente Saldivar, who interned on “Metalocalypse,” that keeps in tune with the adult themed animation trend, but levels up the explicit nature that kisses the sordid substance of “Heavy Metal” with strong bloody violence and some nudity.  “To Your Last Death” is the first feature film of Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klien’s Coverage Ink Films, a subsidiary of the screenplay analysis and development service group, Coverage Ink, and Quiver Distribution (“Becky”) with Cindi Rice, Paige Barnett and Jason Axinn taking on a producer role. 

The voice work is comprised of some of the most distinguishable voices in genre land; voices that carry the unparalleled weight in intensity, tenor, and madness to their darkly depicted illustrated characters.  You can almost feel the veins throbbing out of Ray Wise’s neck when spewing the murderous insanity of warfare kingpin and diabolical businessman, Cyrus DeKalb.  The “Dead End” and “Jeepers Creepers 2” actor’s inhumane avatar, who looks just like him, devises a plan to solidify his company’s legacy by eliminating his four children who, if banding together, can derail his egomaniacal runaway train.  His children are distinct individuals themselves, beginning with the BDS&M buff and death metal rocker, Ethan (Damein C. Haas), a pill-popping wrist cutter, Kelsy (Florence Hartigan “Phoenix Forgotten”), and a mirror-image disappointment and homosexual, Collin (Benjamin Siemon “Thankskilling 3”).  The fourth child, Miriam, is the principle lead.  Voiced with perpetual mixed reactions by Dani Lennon, a regular from the videogame-themed horror comedy and zombie apocalypse television series, “Bite Me,” Miriam’s complexities stem from a web of junctures that lead her to being a control freak amongst her siblings, an obsessive activist against her father, and a certified schizophrenic, but Miriam is also pragmatic with the strongest will to see through and survive her maniacal father’s abhorrence.  While everyone’s voice work is solid, Steve Geiger’s Eastern European accent replicated for the sadistic, warmongering henchman, Jurek, imprints a nightmare man unabashed by his decadent desires.  You wouldn’t think just be reading this review, but Bill Moseley (“Devil’s Rejects”) and William Shatner (“Star Trek” franchise) also have voice roles that are more cameo resembling as Moseley voices a short lived, facially disfigured hired gun and Shatner is the narrating voice in between the void as the Overseer, filling in with cryptic exposition of the Gamemaster’s existence, much like his narrative work on the reboot of the children’s show, “The Clangers.”   Mark Whitten, Bill Mishap, Rom Lommel, Paige Barnnet, Jim Cirile, Tanya C. Klein, Ruairi Douglas, Jason Axinn, and “Deadpool’s” Morena Baccarin as the Gamemaster round out the cast.

The way “To Your Last Death’s” story is structured runs along the same quivering line that’s equal to pure madness and this narrative path of unstoppable carnage is purposefully trekked to dislodge any judgements about what we, the viewer, think we know about the Gamemaster’s macabre game for galactic gambling.  Is the whole “Saw”-like designed bloodbath really a part of Cyrus DeKalb’s hatred and vindictiveness toward his children or is the lucid experience just a figment of Miriam’s break from reality?  Remember, Miriam was depicted to an ex-committed, living with and within the pressures of her father’s ever present, looming shadow. Miriam finds herself repeating moments but blueprinted differently than before or is manipulated by the Gamemaster’s gamer’s high for the adrenaline voyeurs betting on the outcome. The story’s effervescently fluid in pivots, tactics, and style; yet, the constant modify and rebuild was, perhaps, done one or two many times as staleness begins to set in and I eventually find himself anxious for a more linear goal for Miriam and her siblings to be out of limbo, out of being hacked to pieces on the fourth or fifth go-around, and reach the final stage, the final boss, to not be jerked back (or jerked around) to the beginning or midpoint like in unendurable game of chutes and ladders. Soon after that sensation of being uninterested in another rewind, the feeling immediately washes away as the story finally did progress, climax, finish, end, close, and put to sleep a rotunda of violence engendered by cosmic sadists that is “To Your Last Death.”

Like some warped version of “Clash of the Titans,” the insouciant Gods in “To Your Last Death” are not generous or kind in their gamble of human entertainment on this Blu-ray release distributed by Quiver Distribution. The feature is presented in a windscreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with rich colors through but favor toward scenes splotched of dark red or saturated in full tints of blue. The animation can be a little jagged at times but tolerable and only one scenes stood out compromised with two character stuck still for a few seconds too long and color banding rear its little ugly head on their animated faces. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound renders equally gratifying that includes a pulsating and terror riddled soundtrack by Rene G. Boscio. Typical with animation, ambience is generally underused as the filmmakers control much of what’s in the frame and the same can be said with this film, but with the much of action stationary inside the building, the confinement fills in the auditory gaps in conjunction with lucrative and well timed effects, such as a ripping roar of gas guzzling chainsaw, the squirting sounds of blood sprays, and even with the lossless details of minor necessities, such as Jurek whistling, to build upon character development. Dialogue is prominent, clear, and syncs okay with the marionette animation. The Blu-ray case is sheathed in a cardboard slipcover, both arranged with the same front and back cover image and layout. The bonus features are lack as the bare bones release only comes with a high definition trailer of the film. “To Your Last Death” is this year’s cinematic graphic novel to knock back and lap up, loaded with transcendent selfish twists and second-chance carnage with dysfunctional family issues spot lit on center stage.

 

Pre-Order “To Your Last Death” for a October 6th release!

EVIL Metal vs EVILER Zealot! “We Summon the Darkness” reviewed! (Lionsgate / Digital Screener)


Set in the Midwest of the late 1980’s when a satanic cult has killed upwards of 18 people, slain in groups of threes, across the United States, three good girlfriends set forth on a road trip to a heavy metal concert. The girls bump into and befriend three aspiring musicians and fellow metal heads at the venue, inviting them to beers and some company while rocking out to killer show. The after show party moves to one of the girl’s father’s pastoral home for some late night boozing around the firepit, reminiscing about their favorite bands, and whatever else the dark night has in store for them, but the night of hedonism turns quickly into a night of terror when that satanic cult comes calling for three more souls. Some of the group isn’t truthful about their intentions and dead bodies pile up as the ritual killings aim to continue to spread.

Harking back to that killer trope oddity, a setup very keen in the 1980s, of a mysterious killer hiding behind a friendly façade, “We Summon the Darkness” is a modern day remembrance of such a subgenre in the slasher-survival field set along the drab bible belt of Indiana landscape, though, in actually, filmed in Winnipeg, Canada. At the helm is “My Friend DahmerMy Friend DahmerMy Friend Dahmer” director Marc Meyers from a script by Alan Trezza, who is the creative mind behind the short and feature film versions of another Alexandra Daddario comedy horror, “Burying the ExBurying the ExBurying the Ex,” that co-starred the late Anton Yelchin. May he rest in peace. Meyers moves his hand from the somber and inquisitive mutilations to murder of the Jeffrey Dahmer biopic origins story to the fanatical whims of pious psychopaths, daggering the crux of the issue into the misperceptions of stigmatic cultures and beliefs while at the same time being an extension of the dark comedy tone that worked charmingly with the tale of zombified ex-girlfriend hellbent on revenge. “We Summon the Darkness” is a product from a conglomerate of production companies, highlighting The Fyzz Facility,= (“47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged47 Meters Down: Uncaged”), Grey Hawk Productions, Nightshade Entertainment, MEP Capital, and Common Enemy as well as Daddario, herself, pitching in into the producer pool that isn’t her first rodeo in that role.

If you haven’t guessed already, Alexandra Daddario (“Burying the Ex,” “True Detective”) stars as Alexis Butler, one of the three metalhead girlfriends cruising to the show, and sequestering herself the ringleader of the road tripping trio as a level headed, parental type with an edge to keep her ostentatious blond friend, Val, played to the fine tune of being uninhibited crazy well by Maddie Hasson, and the timidly sharp Beverly, a role docile to the point of uncertainty and shepherd well by “Hell Fest’s” Amy Forsyth. The three very attractive concert goers bump into another trio of friends, more haplessly hazardous, if not hopeless, band mates who try their hardest to be as metal as they can be, even if that meals throwing a chocolate milkshake out of the window of their speeding van onto the gals’ Jeep. Austin Swift, Logan Miller (“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”), and Keenan Johnson (“Alita: Battle Angel”) make up the group caught red handed in a stroke of coincidence that the girls find them at the very same concert. As much as the two groups mirror each other in personalities, matching up almost perfectly in the varying degrees of state, one group holds a darker secret that could cost the other their very lives. That level-headedness Daddario portrays onto Alexis’ mindset becomes ravaged with wild fires in her eyes and her laid back amount of patience becomes threadbare frazzled when the bodies start to drop in a satanic twist of murder and mayhem, frenzied with extreme ideology founded on multiple levels of greed. Daddario wears crazed well in a very different side to her usually starry eyed and elegant approaches, making all the others seem abhorrently normal in comparison. “We Summon the Darkness” rounds out with Allison McAtee, Tanner Beard, Harry Nelken, and that “Jackass” Johnny Knoxville as Pastor John Henry Butler.

Despite Daddario’s rising stardom and luminous performance, “We Summon the Darkness” falls hard into a mosh pit of despair. The concept is sound and promising, but the execution couldn’t rise to the occasion with limited secretion of the murderous evil that has spread like a pandemic across the nation that’s has sorely downgraded and diluting the nature of the news and media’s role in beyond hammering in the deaths. When story turns dark, the effect feels whiffed and not as jarring as hoped as little is then diagramed to help assist the viewer grasp just what these satanic cultist wish to accomplish. Also, Trezza’s script is highly predictable as the twist is unfolded fairly early on even before the catalyst transition to a darker tone, spoiling the unveil with too many gnomic sidebar conversations and a slew of obvious character tells that don’t exactly shield the truth of their true wolf in spiked studded, black jacketed, metal band patched sheep’s attire. Also, the film pulled too many punches, teetering on the balancing beam whether it’s an edgy killer comedy or a killer comedy with that’s soft around the belly area. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out why a walk-in pantry has a lock on the inside…?

Metal posers rule while the victims haplessly mewl in this Marc Meyers’ film, “We Summon the Darkness,” hitting retain and digital shelves this week on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital courtesy of Lionsgate and Saban Films. Since the screener provided was a digital streamer, the video and audio aspects will not be covered; however, the Blu-ray specs will feature a 1080p High Definition, 16X9 (2.39:1) widescreen presentation with an English 5.1 Dolby True HD mix while the DVD is presented in the same aspect ratio and will sport an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Both releases with have optional English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles. Special features will include a featurette entitled “Envisioning Darkness” and an audio commentary with director Marc Meyers and writer Alan Trezza. “We Summon the Darkness’s” cheekiness is fresh for an 80’s maniac homage armored with solid performances by Alexandra Daddario and an uncharacteristically stoic Johnny Knoxville as a devout pastor against metal music, but seizes up, derails off the tracks, and fizzles to a reduced version of the greater version it could have been.

“We Summon the Darkness” out now on Blu-ray / DVD/ Digital! Click the cover!