Having honed his genre chops directing the acclaimed short films Tommy (2020) and The Coatmaker (2018), Australian filmmaker Scott Dale, who now operates under the pseudonym S.K. Dale, delivers his first feature length film Till Death. Landing somewhere between a darkly comedic survival thriller and psychological horror, the film stars Megan Fox – in a welcome return to the genre – as Emma, a disillusioned trophy wife whose indiscretions eventually leave her trapped in a remote lake house during the dead of winter, handcuffed to her dead sociopathic husband while a deranged killer is out for revenge.
And while it sounds like a lot, Dale’s deft handling of the narrative, and his inspired casting, which also includes Eoin Macken and Australia’s own Callan Mulvey, has produced a tense cat-and-mouse actioner with Fox effectively carrying the film from chilling start to bloody finish.
“When I came on board as the director, we spent a few months developing the script,” Explains Scott Dale from his Melbourne apartment as the city locks down once again due to the current pandemic. “And then we decided to start casting for our main protagonist. It was actually Jeffrey Greenstein, the producer from Millennium Films who put Megan Fox’s name out there. And, I have to admit, I was a little bit taken aback.
“I figured we were just going to have to wait a month, and then hear a ‘no’ from her. I honestly didn’t understand why we were even going for her, for someone that big.
“But, about a week later I got a call saying that she had said ‘yes’ and she wanted to talk.”
And while Fox’s name managed to add some star power to Till Death’s modest beginnings, the actor’s recent controversies surrounding her verbal feuds with former directors and her activism in women’s rights, including her shared experiences as a young woman in the film industry, has drawn no small amount of trolls to target her projects of choice, a situation Dale reveals he was aware of, but chose to ignore, instead betting on the probable benefits outweighing any negative stigma.
“Yeah, it wasn’t that it wasn’t particularly taken into account.” He elaborates when the subject arises. “But, I’m such a big fan of Jennifer’s Body. And so I was excited to see her come back into a genre film. I just knew people would be ready to see her take on a role like this, and in a genre like this.
“So, I was excited by that. And you know, obviously Jennifer’s Body didn’t get a whole lot of love when it first came out, but over the years it’s kind of built up this large cult following.
“So it was really exciting to me, this idea of Megan re-entering this genre and trying different characters; someone that’s a little bit more grown-up and mature, but still being able to play in this ballpark.”
A ballpark which S.K. himself has firmly embraced with his own particular brand of storytelling. Having garnered acclaim with his 2018 short film The Coatmaker, a masterful four-minute supernatural horror, which he also wrote and produced under his Scott Dale moniker, S.K. credits his feature length début to the success of his fledgling efforts.
“I did a short film called The Coatmaker, which was a little horror, jump-scare type of short. And that pretty much got me a bit of attention. And through my manager it got me into a few meetings, and that led me to the script for Till Death.
“But yeah, I definitely love playing in his genre. Hopefully I can expand into other genres and create different characters and all that. But I definitely found it suitable, as a first time director, to come into this genre.
“I believe that the horror genre is one of the only genres left where you can still be original. You don’t have to have something based on IP, and you can try something a bit different.”
Originally penned by producer / writer Jason Carvey, whose previous efforts include in the VHS Massacre films and the 2006 John Krasinski starrer A New Wave, the script for Till Death spent time on Hollywood’s ‘Blood List’, a kind of short-list for the best un-produced screenplays in the Horror sector, before landing on Dale’s desk, where it underwent a number rewrites to incorporate the Melbourne born directors own unique attributes, including his panache for darkly ironic humour.
“I mean, for me, especially first time I read it, it felt like it was about this woman who was stuck in a lifeless marriage… and now she’s stuck, literally to a lifeless husband, and that was really compelling.
“And so we developed the script in a way to take the audience down memory lane, whether it’s the wedding dress, those photos in the dark room, the wedding song, all those elements were designed to give you a little taste of her past. She obviously had a lot of trauma that she’s gone through, and that’s slowly coming back to haunt her.
“And yeah, it’s just, it’s one of those films that is that roller coaster of a ride, an action-packed kind of thriller.”