Child loss trauma a key theme in first Malaysian film debuting exclusively on Netflix (VIDEO)

Vanidah plays Suraya, a woman who is grieving the loss of her newborn baby. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Vanidah plays Suraya, a woman who is grieving the loss of her newborn baby. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 — As a mother-of-two, actress Vanidah Imran has weathered her fair share of physical and emotional challenges.

Drawing on past experiences of a failed pregnancy and postnatal depression helped her build the psychological foundation to play Suraya in the upcoming Netflix horror film, Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath.

The plot follows a couple, Suraya and Azman, as they move into a new home for a fresh start after losing their newborn baby, unaware of the terrors that lie in wait for them.

For Vanidah, the prospect of playing Suraya meant revisiting some of the most challenging periods of her life.

“In between having my daughter and son, I lost a baby.

“At that time, it was only two and a half months along the way, but I still felt a great sense of loss, and I used those life experiences to shape the character of Suraya and understand what it was like to lose someone a child.

“Being a mother helped me understand this character more,” she said.

The Penang-born actress also appreciated the depiction of postnatal depression in Suraya’s character, adding that it helps challenge the modern stereotype of women always being tough and resilient in any given circumstance.

Vanidah revealed her own brush with the mood disorder after the birth of her first child which often resulted in crying spells and extreme fatigue.

“Postnatal blues is very real and a lot of people don’t understand that.

“In fact, many people think that a woman always has to be strong and if they hear of a woman going through postnatal depression, she’s labelled as ‘weak.’

“Even though I only went through a brief period of postnatal depression, I could relate to some parts of Suraya’s experience.”

Compared to other homegrown horror flicks, Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath sets itself apart by prioritising character development over jump scares.

This unique aspect caught the eye of streaming giant Netflix and it wasn’t long before Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath became the first Malaysian movie set to premiere exclusively on the platform.

Director, producer, and writer Sein Qudsi was bent on making a story-driven film, an approach that he says isn’t always favoured amongst local filmmakers when it comes to the horror genre.

'Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath' is Sein’s second horror film after ‘Bangunan’ in 2015. — Image by Choo Choy May
'Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath' is Sein’s second horror film after ‘Bangunan’ in 2015. — Image by Choo Choy May

“In most Malaysian horror films, the horror comes first while the story comes second.

“I wanted to do it the other way around by focusing on the story and having the horror elements come in to develop the plot.

“I’ve gone through personal experiences where I’ve known couples who lost their child at birth. I’d say the horror acts as a subtext for the darkness that plagues one’s mind after going through such an experience,” he said.

Sein added that he was proud of the film for leaving a lasting impression on Netflix executives and hoped that its addition to the platform can help bridge the gap between Malaysian movies and international audiences.

Along with Vanidah, the film stars Khir Rahman, Nam Ron, Kodi Rasheed, Zain Hamid, and Zulaika Zahary.

Catch Till Death: Azalea’s Wrath premiering on Netflix on August 9.