We don’t need to hear the voice of William Shatner as narrator to know where the screenwriters of “To the Last Death” got their plot.
It’s an animated “Saw” movie built on the bones of “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” an episode of “Star Trek” TOS.
The animation is lurid and limited — sort of a digital bunraku (jerky motion character action in front of static backdrops — and the action is bloody in the extreme in this story of a busty animatrix voiced by Dani Lennon who becomes a pawn in a “game” some aliens are running.
It’s kind of cool, for a movie whose script is more pithy punchline-oriented than clever. And truthfully, there was no reason this story was animated in the first place, but that’s the main reason anybody would think it’s “cool.” Think of “Death” as an “Adult Swim” in a pool of gore and you’re on the right track.
Miriam (Lennon) directs a non-profit acronymed “PANAC” — Peace and Nonviolence Action Committee. You have to wonder if that isn’t because her daddy Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise) is a billionaire time arms manufacturer and onetime candidate for vice president.
But Miriam and her siblings rebelled against the old man and torpedoed his candidacy. No hard feelings though, right? Daddy’s invited Miriam, Ethan (Damien C. Haas), Kelsey (Florence Hartigan) and Collin (Benjamin Siemon) to his weapons-bedecked office building for a “reunion.”
Daddy’s a real piece of work, Mr. “Avarice is strength” and full of withering, profane criticism for each and every one of his offspring. Ethan? He was “far busier doing your eight grade math teacher than doing eighth grade math.” And so one.
Daddy doesn’t want hugs over his newly-announced medical condition. He wants “payback.” He has henchmen standing by to help him mete out punishment. “Death!”
Only Miriam escapes. But on her hospital bed, as she tries to recall the events of the night before for a suspicious cop, an alien entity (Morena Baccarin) materializes and offers her “a rematch.” She “warp back” 24 hours, go back into the “reunion” with new information and new purpose and foil her father and save her siblings.
The “gamemaster’s” rules? “You must and will provide amusement” as she fights her way through this predicament. Those entities gambling on the game “can stop” and “demand a replay” if things aren’t entertaining enough.
Thus Miriam must relive, “Edge of Tomorrow” style, the slaughter of the night before — figure out how to best this henchman or warn and rescue that sibling.
And here’s where this “Didn’t need to be animated” spatter film goes wrong. The gambits, “gags” in Old Hollywood terminology that allow her to get the drop on this bad guy or face imminent butchery from that one, are lame.
There’s suspense as hulking thug is about to dispatch this way or that. Yes, a chainsaw is involved at one point. But the resolutions to those predicaments fizzle and disappoint. Every. Damned. Time.
Animation should let the writers’ “reason/fight her way out of this” imaginations run wild. It does nothing of the sort. The “Do Over” moments dictated by the gamblers are just as limp.
So as “cool” as it is to have Wise doing another diabolical villain, as pointless as Shatner’s occasional plummy voice over about “The vast void between stars” is, as buxom as the assorted assertive women in this horror comic book of a movie might be, “To Your Last Death” is a gory gimmick without a decent movie behind it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic bloody violence and animated nudity, profanity
Cast: The voices of Dani Lennon, Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise and William Shatner.
Credits: Directed by Jason Axinn, script by Jim Cirile, Tanya C. Klein. A Quiver release.
Running time: 1:31