Things get nasty for Megan Fox in the chilling new thriller Till Death. Australian filmmaker S.K. Dale chats with STACK about the physical challenges faced by his star during production.
Till Death is a chiller in every sense of the term. Set predominantly beside a frozen lake in the midst of winter, it tells the story of an unhappy wife (Megan Fox) whose marriage is on the rocks. Blindfolded by her husband (Eoin Macken) and driven to their lake house, the scene is set for a romantic rekindling. However, following a night of passion she wakes up handcuffed to her husband, who shoots himself in the head, leaving her tethered to his corpse, trapped and unable to escape…
Cue an elaborate set-up, bad guys and a sophisticated revenge plot, and it’s safe to say that there is more than meets the eye to this taught and gripping thriller, the feature debut of Aussie filmmaker S.K. Dale.
Speaking with STACK, Dale reflects on the film’s origins and how the script was part of a Hollywood shortlist.
“Jason Carvey wrote the screenplay and it actually made the ‘Blood List’ in America, which is the black list they have for the best un-produced screenplays for horror films. And the production company saw it, picked it up, and then started searching for a director.
“I think they were searching for about a year until I got on the phone with them and we just had the same idea about what the film was and the tone, and the visuals and how we were going to execute it.”
With the degree of macabre and dark humour you’d find in an Alfred Hitchcock film or a Stephen King story, it could be argued that Till Death serves as an allegory for marriage. And with a wry sense of humour, Dale has Megan Fox caked in blood and shackled to a lifeless body for the entire duration of the film, resulting in one of the most unique and physically demanding performances of the year.
“The physicality of this role… you don’t really think about it on the paper until you’re on the set and she’s chained to a real stuntman. We actually had a dummy built but it just didn’t look realistic at all, the way she was moving it and everything. We ended up relying on a stuntman, so unfortunately that meant she was dragging a real person around for the whole movie,” laughs Dale. “You know she really embraced it. I think I went in expecting a little bit more pushback from her, and the stuntman having to be pulled along all these different surfaces half naked.”
With the dead husband’s body being a pivotal part of the story, Dale elaborates further on the concept, giving credit to the degree of commitment given by those involved.
“I just can’t believe how incredible they were. They just embraced it. The way they actually commit themselves to each stunt – there’s a sequence where he falls down the stairs and he goes tumbling down, and to me it was incredible because he has to fight every urge in his body not to tense up, and to stay dead for the whole roll down there. I don’t know how he did it, but he nailed it!”
Co-starring as a mysterious criminal who arrives at the lake house is Aussie actor Callan Mulvey (Avengers: Endgame), whose own personal story of an infamous car accident in 2003 (which led to him losing an eye and suffering facial scars) played into his character, adding fortuitous authenticity to the role.
As it was, the script had always featured his character with a missing eye, as Dale explains. “Yeah it was always in the story and it was one of those things that, I think, having him come onboard added a sense of reality to it.”
Moreover, Dale recalls a particularly terrifying moment towards the end of production when a scene required Mulvey to be stabbed in the other eye.
“I will say that one of the most intense things to direct was the sequence under the water where we have someone stabbing him in the eye. And that was scary because he said to me, ‘I’ve only got one left so let’s get this right!’” he laughs. “When it happened, the way he was screaming underwater, I thought we had really damaged his eye and I jumped out of my chair and ran over to the water tank. And he came swimming up and said, ‘That felt a bit fake didn’t it?’ I said, ‘Actually, I legitimately thought we had blinded you’, so I was really happy with that performance.”