Directed By S.K Dale
Starring – Megan Fox, Eoin Macken, Callan Mulvey
The Plot – Emma (Fox) is left handcuffed to her dead husband as part of a sick revenge plot. Unable to unshackle, she has to survive as two killers arrive to finish her off.
Rated R for strong violence, grisly images, and adult language throughout
– Bountiful direction. Even though it’s obvious that this is a trimmed down production during the height of the Covid pandemic, with its minimal cast and subdued style, Dale’s artistic vision is one that never stumbles or limits the appeal of its execution because of such, feeding towards an overtly anxious consistency that continuously drives the heat of the narrative. What’s most impressive about his steering of the camera, particularly his visual storytelling, is that for being his first feature length film, Dale supplants meaning and emotional context to the variety of angles that stitch together his storytelling, balancing each with resonating influence that enhance the movement of the lens with the constant building of anticipation behind each scene. For a first film, this is simply stunning work from S.K, and makes me wonder what he could do with more responsibility established within an inflated budget without limitations.
– Scenic setting. The near perfect decisions with the movie’s production starts with the conflict’s isolation factor, which is materialized brilliantly with a townhouse far from the eyes and ears of civilization. Not only do the exterior shots of snow covered lawns paint an intentionally chilling interpretation for the audience to immerse themselves in, but it also adds to the dampness of the relationship in the foreground of the story, harvesting an internal disconnect that resonates, quite literally, all around them. As for the interior designs and concepts, the lap of luxury more than accommodates the upper class ideals showcased prominently in the couple’s defining traits, substituting warmth and personality in decor for bare basic luxuries that perfectly articulate the consistency of their loveless relationship.
– Hefty layering. Without question, my favorite element of the film is the fully flourishing immersiveness of its captivating sound design, which presents itself in the many environmental and physical elements pertaining to Emma’s dreaded disposition. The windy encompassing that blankets the otherwise silent environment of the movie’s exteriors vividly paints another in the growing list of conflicts that frequently outnumber and occasionally overwhelm Emma’s ideas for escape. In addition, the hefty thudding and sweeping of the husband’s body being dragged across Emma’s many tumultuous paths conveys a believability to physicality that can’t be as colorfully interpreted with visuals as it can with the persistent chorus of brunt influence hammering itself home in the ears of its audience. It underlines difficulty in the many measures that Emma takes upon herself that would be a whole lot easier without an extra 200 lbs trailing her movements, allowing us to interpret her exertion in ways that very few other captive films articulate.
– Variety in vulnerability. What’s most damning to Emma’s physical conflict are the measures attained in first act establishing interaction that seems to hint that a lot of work and timing went into making this the perfect bout of revenge from an begrudging husband. The basic tropes of these movies are of course prominent, ideally in the lack of phone service and dead car that present an air of familiarity, but what I appreciated were the subtle elements of originality that would otherwise be forgettable exposition when passed off before you see all of the pieces. I won’t give much away, but I will say that everything that we interpret during the first twenty minutes will materialize somewhere else down the line, but in ways you truly wouldn’t previously expect. This alludes to the control that the husband has over his jaded bride, interpreting her movements ahead of time in ways that only a sociopath truly could.
– Graphic material. Make no mistake about it, “Till Death” is very much a psychological thriller over a horror film, but periodically it crosses over into the territory of the latter with these abrupt instances of brutality that make the most of its ambitious rating. What I love about these measures, besides the fact that cinematographer Jamie Cairney shoots them with such unflinching focus, is that they are saved for the moments when their impact can be heard the loudest, in the ensuing madness of some truly gripping confrontations. The realism of the way they’re performed is very much appreciated, unraveling with a dedication to practical effects that solidifies the authenticity of every occasion, but more than that it’s the meticulous consistency of their use from Kelly, which frees them from a redundant encompassing, where each one is less effective than the less because of their repetition.
– Engaging pacing. While clocking in at 83 brief minutes of screen time, the film is able to proceed with an air of urgency to its narrative that keeps matters surprisingly fluid, despite the limitations of its captivity gimmick. With that said, the first act is probably the most challenging to the audience, taking around 25 minutes before the plot that we were promised comes to fruition, but for my money I appreciated these brief initial engagements because they tell us as much as we’re ever going to learn about these characters, for better or worse. Once the second act begins, however, it’s a completely different story, where a new element of antagonism rears its ugly head every ten minutes or so, proving that the worst can, and often will present itself in the least desirable of situations. This was very much an easy sit for me, and one that makes the most of its minimal minutes, leaving a lasting impression that is tenfold for its average.
– Underwhelming lead. I’m sure that I will be in the minority here, but I honestly wasn’t impressed with Fox’s work as the primary protagonist for the movie’s narrative. On a physical level, she’s great, throwing herself around in ways that weathers the character tremendously throughout, all the while carving out the strength and perseverance in the character that is evidently her most defining feature. However, it’s her emotional resonance, or lack therof, that is most compromising to the compelling nature of the character, leaving her as a bit of an unknown in the confines of introverted personality that she never evolves from. For my money, I could’ve used a single scene of self-reflection where she competently shed the layers, and conjured up something diverse to her familiar registry to allow us to see her in ways previously unestablished.
– Disappointing switch. Part of what makes “Gerald’s Game” the single best captivity movie of all time is the magnitude of a psychological conflict that is just as prominent as the physical one at the feet of its protagonist. That’s dramatically different for “Till Death”, as the third act of this film totally reverts what I feel was everything previously established in mental context, in favor of a physical confrontation supplanted by a newly introduced home invasion narrative. This is of course not a spoiler, as the trailer to the movie reveals all of this. However, it’s also not a rewarding direction to the story, either, as it not only asks us to believe some truly ridiculous matters in its set-up, but also leaves Emma’s mental captivity unresolved and unexplored with where the movie ends up. It takes everything special about what was previously established, then makes it virtually inconsequential, feeling almost like a completely different film than the one that was promised.
– Dreadful characterization. Easily my biggest problem with the film, and one that causes a monumental disconnect with the audience, is the lack of exposition provided to their respective personalities to flesh out their appeal. One could argue that the first twenty minutes do this with a series of bombshells that gets our story off and running, but nothing featured during this section even remotely justifies any of them as compelling in the least, all the while skimming over the lack of psychology for Emma’s character that I guess clears up around the midway point of the movie, because we never hear from it again. On top of this, the supporting characters are thinly-invested, one-note extras who only add temporary elements of intrigue to what they bring to their respective dynamics, taking away from the isolated element of the conflict that was the driving force behind Emma’s evolving dilemma, and the deconstruction of everything previously established in my positives.
My Grade: 7/10 or C+