The places we inhabit tend to become a reflection of who we are and what we do. Not just in practical terms. Obviously, an artist will fill their home with the tools of an artist, finished works, inspirational pieces, etc. But on an almost psychic level the place comes to reflect its history. If you were to go back and visit your childhood home, even if it’s been changed by all the inhabitants since then, you’ll be hit by the intensity of the emotions still trapped in the walls and floors.
Chad Archibald’s I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD brings this idea to its most chilling realization. Sometimes the things we do can haunt us in a much more literal sense. Sometimes the only way to escape, is to move on. Keep the good things with you, and leave the rest behind.
The film begins with a few dangerous thugs discussing a modern urban legend: The Candy Butcher. A man who makes even the most hardened killers anxious. But if you need a body disappeared, his farm is the only place to go. The mystery of what exactly he does with them is what sets these bad men on edge.
The truth is far more mundane than they think. The Candy Butcher is simply William (Aidan Devine), a reluctant old farmer who through a terrible twist of fate became inextricably connected to the criminal underworld of this unnamed Northern city. He does what he must to provide for and protect his young daughter Gloria (Ava Preston), but the things he’s exposed her to have left their mark. Gloria is haunted by the ghosts of the people who her dad has disposed of, trapped forever in the walls of the house where they were dumped.
It’s only when one of the bodies delivered to the farm turns out to be an only-mostly-dead girl named Jackie (Jess Salgueiro) that William is forced to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep his daughter safe.
I’m a big fan of director Chad Archibald, writer Jayme Laforest, and the entire crew at Black Fawn Films. They’ve produced some great Canadian indie horror over the last decade, and this is easily their best film to date. Clocking in at an air-tight 83 minutes, there is no wasted space in this film. Every scene serves a purpose, the relationships are built organically, and the emotional payoff feels well-earned. There were literal cheers in the theatre during the blood-soaked climax and hearty applause as the credits rolled.
More than anything, this is a film that puts the family relationship front and center. The supernatural elements and the violence are used to highlight and put tension on this relationship. Aidan Devine does a masterful job portraying the intimidating but awkward single father who never wanted this life, and Ava Preston is a revelation as the sweet, but obviously troubled, young girl. Their quiet moments together are what hold the emotional core of the film together, even when the audience is aware that the horror is waiting just around the corner. While some of these scenes rely on some overly-familiar tropes, I feel like the strong performances from the leads are enough to make them seem genuine.
I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD is both sentimental and thrilling in equal measure. The true horror that everyone in the audience can relate to is the fear of losing what we love. But like the ghosts trapped in the house, nothing we lose is ever truly gone. The important things we carry with us.
Thanks to everyone at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival! This event is running October 11-19, 2018 at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If you’re in the area and want more details about the festival, check out www.torontoafterdark.com and look out for more coverage of the films here at Nightmarish Conjurings.