Life after death according to co-writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo is the best way to describe this horror-psychological thriller “After.LIFE”. The film is on a limited run in San Francisco theaters so I figured I’d check it out since it had Christina Ricci (Black Snake Moan) and Liam Neeson (Taken) as its main protagonists. There are two thing that are required to be able to enjoy and understand this film; One, that human’s experience a sort of a shock/denial when they die in a car accident and two, that the soul lingers around the body even after a certain amount of time (some believe that they linger for 49 days). Vosloo’s creation isn’t that easy to understand and appreciate, but it is preferable to the effects-laden Hollywood horror movies that have plagued movie theaters for years.
Anna (Christina Ricci) is an elementary school teacher who after attending a funeral has a big misunderstanding with boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) in a restaurant. Upset, she drives home in really pouring rain that ends with her in a car accident. She awakes to find herself on a slab in a funeral home and the funeral home’s mortician, Elliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) has the seeming ability to see her and talk to her. According to him, this is a gift to help those deceased to make the transition. Trapped inside the funeral home, Anna is forced to accept the horror of her own death and learn to accept it. However, doubts of her death begin to cloud her mind; even as Paul begins to question the fact that Deacon is a mere mortician and tries to convince the cops that Anna may be alive. Folks begin to question Paul’s sanity, the more he investigates and the more he comes closer to the truth. Paul may be too late, as Anna may indeed be gone…
Those who’ve watched “Dead Like Me” can have an idea of this film’s concept; but it delivers it with a very serious mood and tone. The film tries to generate a feeling of uneasiness by making the viewer question whether Anna is still alive or not. If she’s dead, how can she still walk around and how come she can’t just walk through the door? Just who is Deacon and what is his motivation in keeping Anna prisoner? Is she dead and still inhabiting her dead physical body? Well, the direction keeps the viewer wondering until the final act we are finally privy to the film’s resolution. I guess if the movie had a misstep is the fact that it assumed that its viewers can manage to put together the answers that it leaves a lot for the imagination. The film is defining ‘death’ according to the imagination of the director.
We’ve seen several movies that have portrayed the dead being unaware that they are dead, so the film isn’t exactly that original. Well, according to Vosloo, dead people often deny their demise and it is only through the acceptance of their death can they rest in peace. I guess the movie doesn’t give solid answers and most of its devices were designed to keep the viewer wondering. (as to what really was all the injections about and why Anna can breathe) There are some suspenseful scenes as Anna throws stuff around and the scene when Anna breathes on a mirror appears quite chilling. I guess in a way, Anna is still inhabiting her dead body in a way since she casts a refection; so is one really dead if only the body is scientifically dead? Is she a zombie or a ghost? The answer is yours to answer.
Christina Ricci may well be the sexiest zombie-ghost as we see her naked or clad in this blood-red undergarment that just accentuates her luscious curves. Her presence is eye-catching and her acting is decent despite the fact that the dialogue was really bad in the film’s opening scenes with Justin Long. There’re the scenes with a bobble-head doll that appears a little freaky but once you think about it, this device has been overused that it quickly became funny. Justin Long seems over his head, that I didn’t buy the fact that he is supposed to be a lawyer. Liam Neeson is creepy as the mysterious mortician; the thing that only he can ‘see’ her does generate some thrills and suspense, but it doesn’t exactly last since the film doesn’t develop the groundwork. The film also has a nosy kid wandering around who supposedly may share Deacon’s gift. There’s a subplot with his mother which the viewer has to put together himself.
Despite the fact that the movie seemingly contradicts itself if one isn’t exactly used to the legends that surround the soul; I thought the script was nicely drawn out despite some blank spaces. Iron is believed to be able to keep a spirit at bay (which is why prison walls are lined with iron bars) and some religious beliefs do reinforce the belief of the soul lingering after death. One has to be able to buy into the film only if they are willing to accept its undeveloped ideas or if they know where the story is coming from. This is a directional misstep in a way, since presenting a concept without groundwork or explanations can be a really risky move; not all movie-goers are able to read between the lines or put something together in their imagination. The film’s logic and delivery has to hold, otherwise the film would end up being monotonous. The film does manage to keep me interested for the most part, despite some miscalculations in storytelling.
I guess “After.Life” isn’t all that bad. The film doesn’t exactly impress but hey, I’ve seen way worse horror movies. The film is well-made with good production values, albeit it needs more solidarity. It does leave you a feeling that it didn’t make sense…or did it? The film will leave a lot of people scratching their heads but maybe Vosloo’s aims were to never answer, but to question. If you’re still lost, just look at Christina Ricci wandering around half-naked or naked…so why even bother trying to understand when it wasn’t meant to be understood?
Recommended with Caution, RENTAL First is Advisable [3 stars]
HYPE LEVEL: Playing on a limited run, the film isn't even advertised on TV. It is an Indie Horror movie that depends on word of mouth.
"After.Life" is what could have and should have been an interesting film. The premise and set-up is nice, it has an appealing cast, and the atmosphere has the potential to be pretty creepy. So what went wrong with this supernatural thriller? Why didn't I enjoy it? The answer: it was lifeless. This first-time feature from Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo is a rather disappointing first effort, and the naivety certainly shows. How Vosloo could get the talents of Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci … more
I couldn't stop laughing. When Christina Ricci said she didn't want to be a pale corpse ... I mean come on. I think it was meant to be an inside joke but since the story was so stupid it was pretty much all I had to hold on to.
AFTER.LIFE (yes, that is a dot between the two words suggesting this may be a video game...or blog, or something created in cyberspace) takes a long shot; can a one-line story keep an audience's attention for over 103 minutes? Not having noticed whether this played in theaters or is one of the direct to DVD films, that question is tough to answer. The director and writer Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo (writing in tandem with Paul Vosloo and Jakub Korolczuk) asks us to suspend belief and muse about the … more
After.Life is a psychological horror film starring Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Justin Long, directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo from her original screenplay.
After a horrific car accident, Anna (Ricci) wakes up to find the local funeral director Eliot Deacon (Neeson) preparing her body for her funeral. Confused, terrified and feeling very much alive, Anna doesn't believe she's dead, despite the funeral director's reassurances that she is merely in transition to the afterlife. Eliot convinces her he has the ability to communicate with the dead and is the only one who can help her. Trapped inside the funeral home, with nobody to turn to except Eliot, Anna is forced to face her deepest fears and accept her own death. But Anna's grief-stricken boyfriend Paul (Long) still can't shake the nagging suspicion that Eliot isn't what he appears to be. As the funeral nears, Paul gets closer to unlocking the disturbing truth, but it could be too late; Anna may have already begun to cross over the other side.