Survival Thriller 'Till Death' Shows Off Megan Fox's Comedic Side Directed by S.K. Dale
Starring Megan Fox, Eoin Macken, Callan Mulvey, Aml Ameen
Published Aug 27, 2021The Megan Fox-starring survival thriller Till Death starts off with the kind of campy melodrama that makes one wonder whether they will be able to take this movie seriously. But a few minutes in, it takes a sharp turn into an understated but also comedic horror that only Fox, with that indelibly blasé way she screams "Fuck," could pull off — this movie doesn't want you to take it seriously, which is exactly why it's not to be missed.
Director S. K. Dale's feature debut, Till Death is self-aware, expertly paced and tightly wound, delicately balancing thrilling storytelling and brilliant acting. If a successful filmic vehicle is defined as delivering a role that seems hand-crafted for its lead actor, then Till Death is a tour de force.
Fox is Emma, a woman in a 10-year-long bad marriage to Mark (Eoin Macken), a lawyer at the district attorney's office. About 10 years before the film begins, Emma is attacked brutally by robber Bobby Ray (Callan Mulvey), who Emma learns at the film's start is up for parole, to be freed by Mark. Emma is also having an affair with Tom (Aml Ameen), who works for Mark. We learn these details within the first 10 minutes; they serve as the already-tense mise-en-scène for a film that is about to become nail-bitingly stressful.
For their anniversary, Mark is taking Emma to their secluded cabin in the middle of the woods in the dead of winter. After a seemingly blissful night, Emma wakes to find herself handcuffed to Mark, who promptly shoots himself after intimating he knows of the affair. What follows is Emma trying to find a way to escape the cabin — Mark destroyed her phone, sapped the car of gas, removed all and any of Emma's clothes save for her wedding dress, and set off an increasingly messy series of events. He texted Tom from Emma's phone and invited Bobby over to kill Emma once and for all. Events in Mark's plan fall together like puzzle pieces, all while he's dead and all while Emma has to drag his body alongside herself as she flees the maniacal Bobby, searching for warmth and safety.
This story (written by Jason Carvey), though mysterious and suspenseful, is fairly straightforward and easy to follow — it's not reinventing the wheel. What is impressive about Till Death is its saccharine campy themes and atmosphere — everything is felt to its extreme. The first five minutes are as if out of a soap opera: Emma and Tom in a hotel room, Emma beguiling in a red dress, ending things with Tom to go back to the crazy, abusive, obsessive Mark because adultery by any other name is still adultery. The sadness radiating off of both Tom and Emma is palpable.
Then there's the villainous and conniving Mark, a calculating, controlling, cerebral bad guy (he controls what Emma wears even after he dies) who is so, so jealous. The plot is mired in blood-red jealousy and revenge, on the part first of Mark, whose emotions lead to Emma's labyrinthine situation in the cabin, and then on the part of Emma, as she increasingly becomes angry and comes to not care how she treats Mark's body as she tries to survive. Tom is the jilted lover to perfection, kind and warm — literally giving his body's heat to Emma when she's freezing — who comes when beckoned. These are characters experiencing those raging emotions that would be shot through romance novels, a Tennessee Williams play, or an early '90s neo-noir erotic thriller; cracking and visceral, they're aimed at what each character — portrayed beautifully by every actor, the characters feel lived in and full — thinks is right. This is what makes the movie unique and by today's standards, almost campy — there is too much emotion, more than we've become used to. This is what makes Till Death so good.
And then there is Megan Fox. One doubts whether any other actor could hold up in this idiosyncratic role and deliver such a delicate, funambulist performance as Fox does with Emma, walking a fine line between tragic and comedic. Fox has shown us that she can do comedy and drama separately, but in Till Death, she does both in a way that is inimitable. Emma knows her husband through and through, she hates him way before he kills himself. Fox plays this knowingness with a disheartened, wry sense of physical humour as she shoves and pulls Mark's body around, pushes it down the stairs, steals his clothes to warm herself. The way she screams "Fuck" again and again is inimitable — there is so much tiredness and anger in the way Fox says this word, so much self-reflexive humour, too. It's one word that Fox ought to scream in every movie — no one says it quite as she does. Fox spends the majority of the movie alongside a literal corpse and still manages to deliver a simultaneously charming and emotionally wrought performance, threading her character's trauma through every scene — because Emma has been so close to death (with Bobby and with Mark), she wants so desperately to survive, Fox shows us.
It seems too easy to overlook the value of both Fox's performance and this movie — we tend to think of these kinds of survival thrillers as entertaining and then forget about them, because most of them are forgettable. But Till Death is different for the balletic dance between characters it depicts, physical and thematic. Certain points are predictable, but the viewer is never bored, and this is because of how well this story is projected through a campy veil by Dale's directorial hand, and because of Fox's unforgettable performance. This is a movie that is unabashedly itself, and this is what adds nuance to this survival horror — it exists for itself as Emma works to stay alive. There is heart, characters you can sink your teeth into, whom you can love and hate. Till Death is compelling; it reminds us why thrillers are so, so good.