One of the most toxic elements of a relationship is the element of possessiveness…
…I am married, but both my wife and I were always somewhat opposed to marriage, because while a ring symbolizes love, it’s also rooted in the idea of signifying possession of someone, a symbolic message of ownership if you will to others. It’s a bunch of horseshit. Dating someone, or marrying them, does not make them “yours”, and in director S.K. Dale’s debut feature, Till Death, he takes the concept of the old ball and chain to a terrifying new level.
Written by Jason Carvey (A New Wave), Till Death stars Jennifer’s Body icon (yes, icon) Megan Fox as Emma, a woman troubled by memories of being stabbed by an attacker, and feels trapped in a marriage with her emotionally abusive husband, Mark (Eoin Macken). After an incident while celebrating their anniversary, Emma finds herself handcuffed to her dead husband in an isolated winter cabin, with no way to reach anyone. Oh, and there just so happens to be a pair of men who have broken into the house. Happy anniversary!
I can’t imagine a better actress for this role than Megan Fox, and she doesn’t just kill it, she slaughters it like a motherfucking boss.
Ever since the shameful treatment of Fox by male fanboys and Hollywood execs following Jennifer’s Body and her comments calling out Michael Bay, you could say that Fox’s career suffered through a period where she was held down by a sack of shit man (Bay), and has spent years struggling to reclaim the recognition she deserves. Well, while she never really “went” anywhere, Fox is back in what is easily her best performance since Jennifer’s Body.
Dale’s film opens with Fox getting to flex her acting chops, in a scene in which she forces herself to break things off with Tom (Aml Ameen) moments before meeting her husband for their anniversary dinner. Normally, I don’t care much for cheaters, but Fox manages to pull us in to her side with a deeply sympathetic portrayal of a sad woman that feels lost and unsure of how to escape the emotional trap she’s found herself in. And if you aren’t immediately with her, Mark makes it easy, with a skin-crawling performance from Macken that is infuriating. Most audience members will find themselves anxiously awaiting Mark’s inevitable death as he condescends Emma at every turn, making her change her dress to his “favorite” red dress for the evening and showing a lack of care for literally anything she wants or has to say.
You might want to wear a mouth guard during Till Death, because Emma’s emotionally braindead husband will have you grinding your teeth and wanting to scream. I know I did.
Carvey’s clever script takes it’s time in building up our anticipation, setting a melancholic tone that gets us deep into the sheets between Emma and Mark and the painful emptiness that resides within Emma. Dale presents what at first feels like your average (but well-made) romance thriller, before suddenly hitting us over the head with a shocking moment—and some exceptionally gruesome gore—that finds Fox covered in blood and in shock herself.
And that’s when things really get fun.
Playing out like Gerald’s Game meets a home invasion thriller, Till Death takes a turn from a film that’s depressing and uncomfortable to something highly intense and entertaining. This film is the ultimate middle finger to abusive partners, with Fox as the voice raging for every person that’s ever been mistreated by their significant other. There’s an immense satisfaction in watching Fox drag Mark’s corpse around using her wedding dress, letting his body thump down the stairs and cursing as she goes. He is the metaphorical dead weight of the past abuses which we carry with us, and the film has fun in playing up Emma’s frustration in Mark being dead yet being unable to truly be free from him.
“I’m gonna cut myself free of you if it’s the last thing I do,” says Emma, and damnit if that isn’t a battle cry that all of us who have suffered through abusive partners can get behind. Fox is a blast to watch rage, and half of Till Death is exactly that.
Some might say that Fox’s performance is a bit nonchalant, but I would say that her detached delivery fits perfectly for the disbelief of her character who finds herself in an increasingly absurd situation, especially after crooks Bobby (Callan Mulvey) and his little brother Jimmy (Jack Roth) show up.
Till Death is as tense as a bad date that just keeps getting worse, and once Bobby and Jimmy arrive, Dale ratchets up the suspense, transforming Till Death into a pulse-pounding thrill ride. Fox is like an unarmed John Mclane, barefoot, in the snow, dragging a corpse around and doing whatever she has to to survive. With just two crooks to face off against, you’d think Till Death would struggle to keep momentum going, but Carvey’s twisty script keeps the audience on their toes, forcing Fox—and the criminals—into unexpected situations that we don’t see coming. Till Death is maybe a bit too much cat and mouse and not enough mouse beats the ever loving shit out of cat, but that never detracts from the tension. Like a bad marriage, Till Death is a tooth and nail fight for survival, and it’s absolutely riveting.
The villains themselves could be a bit more interesting, and the thrills get a tad repetitive towards the end, but Till Death is nevertheless a cathartic thrill that encourages viewers to cut loose the baggage dragging them down, and a must-see for Megan Fox fans. Dale and Carvey have delivered what I imagine will be one of the better thrillers of the year, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
You can never go wrong with Megan Fox covered in blood and cutting down the patriarchy.
Till Death comes to theaters and VOD July 2nd from Screen Media.
By Matt Konopka