New horror movie Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath makes a local milestone by being Malaysia’s first Netflix exclusive
HORROR movies are a terrifyingly popular genre and the best heart-stopping classics tend to involve children and the exploration of loss.
From Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist to Dark Water, Ju-On and The Others, films that involve threatened family relationships tend to tug at the deep psychological recesses of our being and stir our innermost fears.
Whether real or imagined, the creeping horror is palpable enough and enduring as it digs its unsettling claws into our memories and burrows into the subconscious.
After all, taking things that are naturally thought of to be pure and flipping the course of fate towards a negative trajectory always hurts, even in real life ― like the unexpected death of a child or baby.
It is with this harrowing juncture that the new horror movie Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath begins its slow descent into a murky downward spiral.
Following the loss of their baby caused by complications during childbirth, a couple want to leave behind the dark episode.
To start afresh Azman and Suraya move to a new house but little do they know that their seemingly humble abode holds a terrifying secret of its own, and their hardships have only just begun.
“For the longest time this couple was trying to get a child and they lost their first born. So the character I play goes through severe postnatal depression,” said Vanidah Imran when met recently at Union Roastery at Citta Mall in Petaling Jaya.
As Suraya she acts alongside Khir Rahman who plays Azman in the horror movie.
“She persuaded him to adopt and although he never agreed to it they decided to do it after receiving advice from their doctor. She also kind of builds a world according to what she wants,” said Vanidah, 45, cryptically.
Talking further about postnatal depression, the actress and mother of two children, Mikhail Aimran, 18 and Maryam Rashika, 15, added that she almost fell into a depressive spell after delivering her first born.
“You don’t really know what it is until it happens. With my first I had the full support of a midwife and my late mother but there was a moment when I felt so pressured and alone in my room. I started crying hard and my father came in to see how I was doing.”
“It was only after that talk with my father who told me about postnatal depression that I realised I was on the verge of falling into it,” she said.
The actress, who won the Best Actress trophy at both the Malaysia Film Festival and Skrin awards for her role in 2007’s The Red Kebaya, had also written and directed her first short film back in 2013, titled Pantang, which dealt with postnatal depression.
But Vanidah, who was formerly married to actor Rashidi Ishak, added that she was no stranger to the loss of an infant as well.
“Between my two children I had lost a baby that was a little over two months old and it was a very disappointing experience,” said the star of movies such as Perempuan Melayu Terakhir and Crossroads: One Two Jaga.
Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath, which is also known as Dendam Azalea, is written, directed and produced by local filmmaker, Sein Qudsi.
The former singer for hip hop and R&B group Ruffedge, who was also present, said: “I never thought I would venture into another horror film after I did Bangunan in 2015.”
“I consider myself more of an action, drama and thriller film lover, but Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath has a strong relatable story at its heart.”
“Apart from the horror genre, the main theme of this film is family and support. Losing a child is a great loss and affects a family in many ways ― especially the mother.”
“We explore these themes in the film, with elements of suspense, horror and vengeance,” said the 36-year-old filmmaker.
The director of the 2013 gangster themed Langgar explained that the story was of utmost importance and came first before he layered it with the various horror aspects.
“That was my approach and the inspiration came from personally witnessing the suffering of a mother after losing a baby at childbirth and the impact that it had which was quite devastating to see.”
“For this I wanted to show how a family comes together, how strong a woman is to overcome the obstacles and the man supporting his wife through these experiences,” he said.
Sein also utilised a more atmospheric way of telling his story by elaborating on the different pacing that some Malaysians might not be used to.
He revealed that: “It really takes its time to develop with a step by step unveiling of things. But I think that people will be able to get it since more Malaysians are exposed to various films from other countries on various platforms.”
Sein added that the satisfaction will come for viewers as they get a deeper feeling and understanding for the characters as the movie progresses.
The antagonist of the movie comes in the form of a crook named Shahidan, played by multiple award-winning actor, director, writer and theatre activist, Nam Ron.
“Me and Sein go way back. I acted in his directorial debut Langgar and then he acted in the movie I helmed back in 2013 (PSIKO: Pencuri Hati). So we had a good working chemistry already, communication was easy and things moved along quickly. As the director, he knows what he wants and I liked the story as well,” he said.
The 49-year-old actor, whose real name is Shahili Abdan, further let on: “My character basically gets entangled in a gruesome crime that happens within the movie and this sets off in motion a chain of events.”
Without divulging too much he added: “It eventually involves spiritual retribution.”
The other cast members in the horror movie include Kodi Rasheed (who plays Samad), Zain Hamid (Inspector Bakri) and Zulaika Zahary (Azalea).
Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath, which launches exclusively on American streaming service Netflix today, will be available for audiences around the world.
“Ever since Netflix appeared on my radar I have started thinking on how do I get my film to be on this service. I’m grateful that it’s happening now,” said Sein excitedly.
The horror movie represents a local milestone by being Malaysia’s first Netflix exclusive. “To know that audiences in 190 countries will have the chance to watch this film is amazing. There has always been a huge gap between local films in Malaysia and other countries.”
Sein, who has been working in the TV and film industry since 2003, added: “Having Netflix as a platform that bridges the gap is a major opportunity that gives hope to filmmakers like myself to create more content that we believe in. Fellow Malaysians will get to watch this film firsthand on Netflix, which is also something I consider special as the film has never been screened anywhere else.”