It takes a lot of guts to make a movie. Putting something you created out there for people to judge, critique and scrutinize isn’t for the faint of heart, but putting something out there that has a deeply personal message is downright terrifying for most movie makers. Chad Archibald’s I’ll Take Your Dead is a heartbreaking horror film with a powerhouse cast of characters, and it’s easy to see why this film is turning heads.
I’ll Take Your Dead tells the tale of a widower, William, raising his daughter Gloria in the wake of his wife’s death from a terminal illness. Thrust into a life where he has become the disposal unit for city gang members, William tries to get out of this life and start anew somewhere far away from the daily death they encounter. When three dead bodies are left for William to “take care of” things go from bad to worse when William finds that one of the corpses, a young woman, is not actually dead. With fears of gang retaliation, William patches her up and holds her captive until he can figure out a solid plan of action. Soon, her “killers” catch wind that she’s still alive and move in on the farm to finish what they started.
Premiering at the Calgary International Film Festival, I’ll Take Your Dead was initially released on demand and on home video back on June 4, 2019, but had recently been given a limited theatrical release playing in select cities across Canada and the United States starting on July 5, 2019. I had the chance to chat with the film’s stars Jess Salueiro (TV’s Workin’ Moms) and Ava Preston (Shazam!) about their thoughts on the film and their respective characters. Salgueiro plays Jackie, the young woman left for dead and Preston plays Gloria, a young girl on the verge of womanhood amidst a world of death and ghosts. Here’s what they had to say.
Colin Paradine for Nightmare of Film Street: What drew you to the role of Gloria?
Ava Preston: I read the script and I thought that it was a really, really cool story. I really liked the premise of it, so knew like, right when I read the audition sides that I really wanted to do the film. I kept on asking, did we get any calls? I guess you could say that seeing like this character development and seeing how the story falls, that was really interesting.
NOFS: Very cool. What was it you loved and hated about Gloria?
AP: Okay, well, I know what I love about her. She’s really straight forward. She knows what she wants and she’s not going to be fake or pretend. She’s going to be straight forward, which is really cool. I really like that about her. I’m trying to think of something I don’t personally like… maybe she could be just a little bit nicer. She has to work on her self-being. Overall I think she’s really cool. I loved playing her. But yes, everyone can change, everyone has room to grow as a person.
NOFS: I saw on your IMDB page that you have done quite a bit of child and youth-oriented projects. Was it tough changing gears into something so dark?
AP: This is really different from kid’s stuff. I would say that I’ve been growing up and I’ve always wanted to do some more serious roles so I was really excited to jump on a film like this. I think that it was kind of hard at times to grasp onto different emotions but overall I was just really ecstatic to start shooting a movie like this because it was basically my first film that was sort of grounded and more mature that I could really sink my teeth into.
NOFS: You mentioned that this was something a little more mature for you. Did you find that it was difficult portraying a girl coming of age?
AP: At times, yes. It was also very relatable to play her because she was my exact age when I was actually shooting it, which was really cool. But yes, it is always tricky to try to create this sense of character development differently than yourself.
NOFS: Coming of age is a strange thing. So many things are happening, both mentally and physically, it’s a very personal experience. How does one portray those deeply personal moments for an audience?
AP: There’s this movie that I love called Kings of Summer and I just want to make the audience feel how I felt watching that movie. Seeing actors and characters grow is really important and once you see the film you realize that there is a sense of coming of age with Gloria. That she does realize things and she does kind of change and grows to like people. Like, she grows to get to know different people and that’s what I really love about her.
NOFS: Jess, can you give me a little bit about what your process was for becoming Jackie?
Jess Salgueiro: Jackie is a gang member and I found it very interesting; the whole world around being a female gang member. I was asking Chad [Archibald] about his inspirations and he actually directed me toward some documentaries about female gang members, mostly in Los Angeles. That was super informative and really interesting because I didn’t realize all of the nuances of not only being in a gang but being a female in a gang. There’s a lot of things to navigate. There’s a lot of facets to navigate, especially – I found that a lot of these women were overcompensating their toughness because their not male. So they felt like they had to be extra cool. That bit was really helpful for me and also really understanding what’s led a lot of people to gang life. For a lot of people, it is protection, it is family and I knew I had to understand that in order to play this because it felt like it was very important.
NOFS: Bridging off of that, did that make thing easier to get into Jackie’s frame of mind?
JS: To get into the headset of being held captive, honestly, it was quite easy because I’m literally bound (to a bed) and also we were filming in the winter. We were in this very isolated place, this house that was genuinely in the middle of nowhere and it was cold and drafty and uncomfortable. There were lots of environmental factors. I felt like that all really added to this dissonance, this kind of haunting – just kind of always being uncomfortable. It helped get into the character for sure.
NOFS: What was your initial reaction after reading the script?
JS: I loved it, actually. There’s a particular scene that I auditioned with, a scene between me and Aidan’s (Devine) character (William) and it really talks about judgment and how people don’t necessarily seek out criminality and danger. I just thought that the scene was written so well that it really showed how- it was just really honest to my character, really raw for his character as well and you see the humanity in both of them.
NOFS: I asked your co-star Ava Preston this same question. What do you love and what do you hate about Jackie?
JS: I love that Jackie is a fighter, that’s for sure. That chick does not know how to die. She’s a survivor, she’s seriously a survivor and I found that I was inspired actually, by that strength. What I hate about her… she’s a fucking liar and she gives some particular men in her life too much power. She doesn’t listen to her intuition.
Be sure to check out I’ll Take Your Dead available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital media. As always, share your thoughts on the film and all other things horror on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. Stay creepy, kids!