Streaming exclusively on Netflix, Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath is the latest Malaysian horror film. Also known as Dendam Azalea, it came out at the start of our past long weekend. Directed by Sein Qudsi who made his first horror movie in 2015 with Bangunan, the movie stars Khir Rahman (Azman), Vanidah Imran (Suraya) and Nam Ron (Shahidan).

According to the New Straits Times interview, Sein wanted to explore the theme of family and support and the effects of losing a child on the family, especially the mother. While the themes may be nothing new to the genre or filmmaking in general, the plot was focused on its goal and the cast really delivered with their performance.

Watch the trailer:

The plot

The gripping emotional story revolves around a couple, Azman and Suraya, looking for a fresh start with a new house and their newly adopted child Amar while grieving from the recent loss of their baby.

Unfortunately for them, their new home has its own dark past that would start causing more trouble for both of them.

The takeaway

I was thoroughly impressed by Khir and Vanidah for portraying realistic characters that I could sympathise with. Oftentimes, horror films would have one character who’s spiritually or psychologically tortured by something supernatural and their partner won’t believe them until it’s too late.

But in Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath, even though Suraya ends up being the only one haunted by the ghost living in the new house, Azman kind of puts his own grief aside to continually help his depressed wife to get back on her feet.

His character is indeed a breath of fresh air. He’s not the cliche horror movie husband who would dismiss everything the wife would say just because he never experienced the hauntings. Though Azman and Suraya did butt heads about it, he still went to do something about it afterwards to give his sick wife some peace of mind, like bringing in an expert to check the house. Azman was really Suraya’s rock, her anchor to reality. While Suraya slips further and further into depression, Azman continues to help her get better.

In a very powerful scene, a weary Azman accidentally snaps at Suraya and reveals that he too is still mourning the loss of their baby. Azman’s character not only embodies the kind of emotional husband support that a wife like Suraya needs, but also shows the less-talked-about topic of husbands affected by child loss. Suraya isn’t the only one dealing with the loss, Azman is too. It’s just that in this situation, he isn’t depressed. Yet his pain cannot be denied either. A loss like this affects not just one but the entire family.

I think it’s awesome that the film explores the theme of family and support in such a way that it highlights the experiences of everyone affected. Even though Suraya’s experience takes centre stage for most of the movie, the story doesn’t neglect Azman and his own struggles. In fact, it highlights all of it and gives Khir his moment to fully shine with his portrayal of Azman.

As for Suraya, her character gives audience a good look at a woman who is struggling with postnatal depression and how she tries to find strength to push through it everyday.

There would be moments where Suraya would get these pockets of strength and then instantly, she would lose them all over again. Sometimes the change in Suraya during these instances is subtle as it could just be a quick shot of her facial expression or something, but it works.

Vanidah, who portrayed Suraya, revealed to New Straits Times that she herself had a similar expression too.

“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.

Every step of the story was purposeful and gave audience insights on the happenings piece by piece at a perfect pacing. Sein pointed out that he used “a more atmospheric way” in storytelling that some people may not be accustomed to.

“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,” he told New Straits Times.

Trust! As a horror movie buff, I was not at all bored during the movie. In fact, it got me hooked all the way through. Even though I did manage to suss out some of the plot twists, it still made me go “aha!” Plus, it was fun knowing that my guesses were right. In fact, it made me appreciate the film even more because of how well they were revealed.

Besides the great pacing, the movie is so beautifully shot that you probably won’t even realise that some scenes are actually hiding the plot’s secrets. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a smart horror film like Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath. Like I mentioned before, no detail is shown without purpose to the story and its goal.

And with brilliant editing, it leaves you with just enough of an odd feeling that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. Without revealing too much, the film caught me off-guard with its intro and that clued me in to what kind of film this was going to be. It’s not just a story to scare you or make you cry, but also to entice you with a real mystery.

As a result, the film becomes a wonderful pot of well-combined elements of suspense, horror and vengeance that leaves everyone watching it satisfied.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you should soon! So far, Netflix has a good collection of horror films that I hope will continue to grow. And it would be awesome to see more Asian stuff added in the future.

TL;DR

The Good
– Great story pace
– Plenty of scary moments
– Actors
– Cinematography (you gotta pay attention!)
– ALL THE PLOT TWISTS

The Bad
– There’s no possibility of a sequel (really though, I can’t think of anything bad about this film)

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