Films about domestic murder have a strong appeal no matter how many times those tales are retold. Just look at the abundance of true crime TV shows that focus on murder. In many of those small-screen dramas, the fatal deed is strictly a family affair. And that makes sense — TV is all about the family, after all.
Domestic treachery, murder, and mayhem are at the root of Till Death, an almost one-location drama set in a stately home overlooking the ocean. But it’s a world apart from the police procedurals that network and cable TV deliver. It’s a melodrama of the spine-tingling suspense school of movies. You know the kind: they usually conclude with the hero and villain wrestling for control the knife, gun or some other implement of destruction. And obviously, someone’s going to get hurt.
“…a physician with perhaps the world’s worst bedside manner, takes up with a rich widow to, ahem, manage her estate.”
The lead-up to the heavy action is a taut game of psychological chess between the key players. Garrett (Peter Alexandrou), a physician with perhaps the world’s worst bedside manner, takes up with a rich widow to, ahem, manage her estate. It’s no coincidence that it was Garrett who helped usher the widow’s husband off this mortal coil while administering some questionable palliative care.
The film is shot in black and white, and in typical noir fashion, Garrett’s voice-over narration guides us through the first half of the film. We get the full gist of his intentions, which grow more sinister as the story progresses. He’s a philanderer with a pitch black heart, and his plans for Rose (Nicole Kontolefa) are not going to make her life better. But midway through, the action takes a drastic shift and before we know it, Rose is leading the way, almost wordlessly.
The plot is fairly simple, but the storyline isn’t really the main attraction here. The film wants to make you squirm in your seat a bit, and it succeeds in doing that. The musical soundtrack, which includes a morose, sawing violin, is reliably creepy and tension-inducing. In many a movie that scratchy string accompaniment provides a fitting melody for, oh, say, a desperate victim trying to stay one step ahead of a lunatic with a butcher knife.
“The film wants to make you squirm in your seat a bit, and it succeeds…”
As for the film’s setup, there are a couple of minor credibility issues — it’s hard to understand why Rose lets the domineering Garrett into her life. But once the storyline is established the tempo steadily builds and, like the rolling surf outside, the story’s flow washes away most lingering doubts.
Tensions arise when outsiders wander into the house, threatening to upset the extremely hard to explain the scene that is unfolding. Even the elements seem to play a conspiratorial role. We root for Rose throughout, even when she crosses a few lines and the action turns bloody. But as the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures, and Till Death has them in spades.
Till Death (2018) Directed by Matt Eames. Written by Matt Eames. Starring Eva Solveig, Peter Alexandrou, Hank Fandel, Nicole Kontolefa, Mary Eames.
7 out of 10