Megan Fox gets knocked down but gets up again (and again) in Till Death, a hyperactive thriller that eschews the slow-burn approach of the similarly themed “Gerald’s Game” for higher-octane action. The plot is a perhaps a little too telegraphic, with the outcome never really in doubt and multiple predictable scenes, but it’s anchored by a surprisingly physical performance from Fox and is worth watching by those who love to sink their teeth into some chewy, tasty revenge!
Emma (Fox, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows”) is the neglected — perhaps abused — wife of high-powered defense attorney Mark (Eoin Macken, “The Forest”). On the eve of their eleventh wedding anniversary, Emma breaks off an affair with one of her husband’s subordinates at the law firm. “I can’t do this anymore,” she tells him in a speech given by many a married woman in many a movie. “Let me at least see you tomorrow,” her paramour entreats her. “I can’t . . . tomorrow is my anniversary,” she replies.
Right away the viewer wonders if Emma is a bad girl or a victim. We haven’t yet met her husband; maybe he’s a sweet guy and she’s doing him wrong. But then the next evening, after she meets him at the office wearing the wrong-color dress (how controlling), the two go out to dinner to celebrate their anniversary. Emma and Mark seem distant from one another, each seeking meaning in their long-term relationship. At a nearby table, a young woman accepts a marriage proposal from a definitely way-older man, and later Emma advises her in the ladies’ room: “Nothing’s set in stone, you know.”
So the dynamic of an unhappy marriage is firmly set in place. The two solemnly exchange gifts (from him, a necklace that doubles as a plot point; from her, Super Bowl tickets he disdains because his Steelers are terrible) and depart. Ah, but he has one more surprise, in the form of a blindfold in her pocket. The night’s not over! They’re going to take a ride . . . somewhere. Why the blindfold? Well, don’t want to spoil the surprise. Although perhaps blindfolding a woman who has a literal backstabbing in her past (don’t worry, she got the attacker’s eye) is perhaps not the best way to engender trust. And clearly, these two don’t trust each other much.
They wind up at their lake cabin. The evening continues and ends in expected romantic fashion, as Emma is won over by her husband’s thoughtfulness. She awakens the next morning refreshed and satisfied. And handcuffed to her husband, who’s sitting on the side of the bed. Perhaps a residual from happy fun times the previous night? Probably not: Mark turns to look at his wife and then blows his brains out, splattering his bride with a crimson wave. Whoopsie!
So what began as a marital-strife movie about trust and control suddenly turns into something far more alarming . . . and interesting. Like the protagonist in the aforementioned “Gerald’s Game,” Emma is in a secluded building far beyond the possibility of external assistance. She’ll need to use her wits to overcome the elements, the handcuff, the . . . two men approaching the house with malice in their eyes. Yep, Emma is no longer alone, but it’s not likely that help has arrived.
A beautiful cats-and-mouse game is the centerpiece of the final half of Till Death, as considerable obstacles appear in Emma’s path. Just when you think she’s got it all figured out and can finally escape, she cannot. And sure, that’s the sort of thing we’ve seen in countless movies like this, but there’s no need to suspend your disbelief here. Fox lends a considerable amount of humanity to her character, making her more relatable and credible. This really helps elevate the story from the one-dimensional mediocrity that afflicts most woman-in-terror movies.
At several points during this movie, I wondered why Our Heroine didn’t “just” do this or that, only to have a reasonable explanation arrive soon thereafter (this probably says more about me than it does about this film). Screenwriter Jason Carvey’s script covers most of the logic-centric bases, which is again more than one usually gets from movies as these. The movie wisely plays to its strengths — action, suspense, and its leading lady — while sacrificing character development and pacing. On the latter, it felt as if the climactic parts — the cats-and-mouse game — was a long time in coming and probably could have begun much sooner. Personally, if we gave up some of the exposition with the husband — immediately presented as a classless, smarmy control freak — I wouldn’t shed a tear.
Ultimately, I had a great time watching Megan Fox in her first horror-thriller combo since “Jennifer’s Body,” although I do wonder how her hair and makeup stayed so perfect throughout, given all the fighting and sundry violence. And though Till Death isn’t quite the psychological thriller that “Gerald’s Game” was, it works fine as a straight action-revenge movie.