A film review by Craig J. Koban October 6, 2021


2021, R, 88 mins. 

Megan Fox as Emma  /  Aml Ameen as Tom  /  Eoin Macken as Mark  /  Callan Mulvey as Bobby Ray  /  Jack Roth as Jimmy

Directed by Scott Dale  /  Written by Jason Carvey


For the absolutely hypersensitive when it comes to spoiler culture...consider yourself warned...


The new psychological thriller TIL DEATH is a real piece of sucker punch cinema.  

It starts off as a pretty routine and paint-by-numbers erotic thriller about marital infidelity and then quickly - and thankfully - simmers into one of the more nimble footed, cleverly macabre, and fiendishly creative and suspenseful cat and mouse home invasion thrillers in quite some time.  

The genre bait and switch approach here from director S.K. Dale (making his feature film debut) is welcoming: There have been countless home invasion potboilers over the years, and with many seemingly regurgitating the same playbook beats over and over again.  TIL DEATH adheres to many of the genre trappings, yes, but where it chiefly segregates itself apart from the pack is that it has the victim of said home invasion handcuffed to her dead ex-lover, which ratchets up the tension ten fold.  That, and this film contains (trust me) Megan Fox's finest role and performance since JENNIFER'S BODY over a decade ago. 

Fox plays Emma, who's introduced in the film as being unhappily married to her prominent and powerful lawyer husband in Mark (Eoin Macken), who has his eyes on becoming DA.  He's also quite the control freak as far as his better half is concerned.  Even though Emma outwardly displays love and loyalty to Mark, she secretly is having an affair Tom (Aml Ameen), who happens to inconveniently be one of Mark's own colleagues.  Seeing nothing good on the horizon for this illicit union, Emma decides to quickly call things off with Tom before Mark finds out and, in turn, she decides to focus on her tragically loveless marriage.  On the night of Mark and Emma's anniversary he gifts her a beautiful necklace and surprises her with a trip to a secluded lake house in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of winter.  

And, uh huh, you definitely would be correct in thinking that characters going to a secluded lakehouse in the middle of nowhere is never, ever a good idea in any movie. 

Feeling a bit uneasy about the whole trip, Emma nevertheless acquiesces to her hubby's request for a romantic getaway, and things initially seem fine, albeit with lingering tension.  When Emma wakes up the next morning she's shocked to find herself handcuffed to Mark, but this is no mere kinky sex play on his part.  Without warning, he points a gun to his head and blows his brains out all over her, leaving her utterly distraught.  As she begins to process her dire situation she soon realizes that phone reception is an impossibility, not to mention that Mark has strategically removed anything that would allow her to communicate with the outside world and call for help.  Making matters ever more dangerous is the sudden appearance of two other men, with one of them, Bobby (Callan Mulvey), being a figure from Emma's dark past that appears to be hired by Mark to show up and end Emma's life without anyone knowing in an elaborate revenge plot.  The highly resourceful and running on pure survival instinct and adrenaline Emma, on the other hand, definitely has other ideas as she battles the winter conditions outside, her two new assailants, and, of course, all while still being attached to her near headless dead husband. 



One thing that TIL DEATH assuredly has going for it is an overall simplicity in execution with its fairly straightforward premise.  Screenwriter Jason Carvey doesn't waste too much time with wasteful expositions and with bogging the viewer down too much with the central doomed relationship triangle between Mark, Emma and Tom (if anything, I would argue that the film gets off to a pretty iffy start and seems a bit on the clunky side).  For audience members, though, this shaky opening doesn't derail the film, because TIL DEATH then gets into the real twisted nightmare that is Emma's predicament, who has to rather quickly come to terms with her maniac dead spouse's hellishly elaborate plan for vengeance spawned by her unfaithfulness.  And once Dale gets his film off and running it becomes a real juggernaut ride for the remainder of its pitch perfectly short 80-plus minutes.  From this point, TIL DEATH becomes a single location production and traps viewers alongside Emma within the treacherous confines of the lakehouse and all of the environmental dangers that lurk outside for her if she does manage to escape.   

Dale makes innovative usage of his minimal settings by utilizing fluid editing and coherent visual geography that keeps the action clear and concise.  There's obviously limitations with placing Emma within a lakehouse tethered to a corpse, but Dale keeps everything moving along with a breakneck pace and submerges us deep within what appears to be a constantly hopeless situation for Emma.  She's not only covered in blood and brain matter, but she's also not dressed for the elements at all (she's in her slinky bedtime wear) and is totally vulnerable from  (a) dying outside because of the frigid conditions and (b) two murderous thugs that have a leg up on her in the sense that they don't have to drag roughly two hundred pounds of dead man around with them.  And, my oh my, the things that Emma is forced to do with her husband in tow only ratchets up the Hitchcockian levels of unease here.  She has to pull this corpse everywhere and into every room and up every stairwell, and eventually through knee deep snow outside and while not tipping off her attackers.  This film gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "old ball and chain." 

I think it has become relatively easy for critics to lambaste Fox's talents (or lack thereof) over the years (many of her film choices haven't helped much), but where she obviously lacks in thespian range she more than makes up for it on a level of raw physicality and teeth clenched tenacity here.  Probably the finest thing about her choices in TIL DEATH is that she doesn't play Emma to scream queen theatrics, nor does she make her a pathetic victim.  This character is victimized throughout the story and has to go through increasing levels of mental distress as it progresses, but she remains doggedly determined and physically tough to tackle every single tortuous roadblock put in her way on her journey to secure her ultimate freedom.  And Fox is damn good in this role, which plays efficiently into the actress' wheelhouse in terms of what she's good at, and for the most part Emma is gritty heroine that deserves our rooting interest (even though she's indefensibly an adulterer).  Kind of like the movie around her, Fox's performance starts off a bit weak, but then evolves and matures into something genuinely effective that immediately commands our attention; this might be her best film performance...ever. 

It would be a fair criticism to say that, at the end of the day, TIL DEATH employs the same genre building blocks as so many others before it (if you've seen one iteration of SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY then you kind of have seen them all) and the arcs here are achingly familiar (rich/nuttier than a fruitcake husband unleashes all of his toxic masculinity on his gorgeous trophy wife after she tries to sever ties with him).  Beyond that, last year's much better THE INVISIBLE MAN worked so masterfully well by marrying its sci-fi conceits alongside social commentary about the nature of abusive relationships in the modern era.  Granted, I don't think that TIL DEATH was aiming for those same level of thoughtful benchmarks, mostly because it's trying to operate on a register of pure terror, and on those intended levels the film is equal parts exhilaratingly scary and cunningly executed.  Plus, I appreciated TIL DEATH as a no-nonsense and small scaled nerve wracker that never wears out its welcome and is pretty unpretentious about unleashing its perversely viscous brand of B-grade edge of your seat delights. 

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