A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that To Your Last Death is a 2020 animated horror movie in which a young woman must save herself and her siblings from their vengeful and sadistic billionaire father. This movie is extremely violent and gory, with adult themes throughout. The father has trapped the siblings in various torture devices reflective of the pathological behaviors they developed as a result of their abusive childhoods. For instance, a woman who engages in cutting her arms is forced to slice her arms and bleed a certain amount each minute or face decapitation. A man who practices autoerotic asphyxiation must answer eighth grade math problems correctly or face death by strangulation. One of the father's henchmen attempts to rape one of the characters. Characters are shown sawed in half, punched to death by a giant medieval metal fist, axed to the skull, killed by spikes in an elevator shaft. A character talks of taking painkillers to escape the pain of being raped by her abusive husband. Decapitation is shown. There's also frequent profanity, including "f--k" used on a regular basis, and brief gratuitous nudity (female breasts). Definitely not a movie for kids.
What's the story?
Miriam DeKalb (Dani Lennon), the head of a struggling nonprofit working for world peace, has just been arrested as the prime suspect in the horrific murders of her siblings. She maintains that the killings were the work of her abusive father, Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise), the billionaire CEO of a corporation that develops military weaponry. He is known for his generous philanthropy and for being a failed vice presidential candidate. While recovering from her injuries in the hospital and faced with police officers convinced of her guilt, Miriam is visited by a mysterious woman who tells Miriam that she can alter time and destiny and give her another chance to stop Cyrus. Miriam is then forced to relive the moments that led to her arrest. Cyrus has summoned his estranged children to his office on the top floor of his corporation's skyscraper. Cyrus informs them that he has six months to live due to brain cancer. Still livid at his kids for ruining his prospects for the vice presidency by holding a press conference and outlining his abusive behavior to them as children, Cyrus has devised torture devices for each of his four kids, each reflective of the pathological behaviors the kids have engaged in as a way of coping with their father's torment. While Miriam tries to stop Cyrus and his mercenaries from torturing his kids to death, thinking that she knows how it will go and how to stop it, the mysterious woman, known as the "Gamemaster" (Morena Baccarin), refuses to make things easy for Miriam. The Gamemaster, representing several gamblers from the celestial realm, continually twists fate in order to keep the action interesting and engaging for the gamblers. Now Miriam must not only stop Cyrus, but also contend with the Gamemaster's constant interference.
Is it any good?
It's not for the squeamish, but To Your Last Death is a wild mix of anarchic splatter and a heady (if cynical) exploration of fate and destiny. Somehow, this animated horror about four damaged adult siblings trying to escape from the psychopathic wrath of their father (wickedly voiced by Ray Wise) manages to balance the cosmic big picture and the blood-soaked central story without careening too far into either extreme. The extra miles the filmmakers took to make this happen is appreciated; had they stuck simply to the basic story, it would have still been a good movie, but stock. Instead, the movie toys with audience expectation, while both celebrating and teasing the conventions of grindhouse horror.
While the movie wears its influences on its sleeve (Saw, obviously, comes immediately to mind), To Your Last Death is as original and convention defying as they come. The acting is excellent, and the main characters are developed substantially more than most horror movies, where everyone seems content to provide just enough information to make the audience somewhat invested in whether or not they're killed. That said, this is definitely not for kids in any way, shape, or form.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gory violence in movies. Why do you think there's an appeal for bloody and graphic violence in movies? How much is too much?
What are some of the deeper themes explored throughout the movie?
How would you characterize the style of animation, and how does the animation heighten the action and story?
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