After.Life has somehow managed to remain relatively unknown, coming from first time director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, despite being one of those films which sparks a strong reaction from audiences. I stumbled across this movie a short while ago, noting that it had a cast which consisted of Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson and Justin Long (another horror movie? What’s gotten into him?), so thought that it would be worth a viewing. For all of its faults, I’m glad that I did!
It was not too long into this film that it managed to gain my full attention due to its unusual narrative – being surrounded by the question of whether Anna (Christina Ricci’s character) is dead or not. This sounds really quite a basic premise to base an entire film on, but my mind switched back and forth literally dozens of times throughout the course of the movie, showing that things are not as simple as one might think. For this reason in itself, this film is worth a watch because it keeps the viewers on their toes and guessing all the way through. I think that the actors in this film all did a good job in their roles, and it is probably because it was such a different kind of film that such a high-end cast signed up in the first place, considering that it was a first time project for that particular director. Sure, no one’s going to earn any awards for this piece, but it’s not really your every day acting job!
However, it is not all praise here (that’s not really my style!) because the film shows obvious holes which have probably come due to the lack of experience on the director’s part. There are some odd moments in the early part of the film which remain unexplained and don’t really seem to connect to the overall message that the film delivers, but rather, feel that they were just thrown in at random to freak the audience out. Whilst that is not a sin – horror movie director’s do it all the time – I just think that it it a cheap and amateurish way of ‘scaring’, as it really doesn’t require any skill whatsoever. Very early on there was the nosebleed trick that is a common filmmaking tool for unnerving viewers, but what is it exactly about a nosebleed that is so popular with filmmakers? They are almost always used to signify something important or creepy is occurring, but this just seems to be such a random connection, that it always baffles me a little bit.
The word ‘pointless’ has been used a lot when talking about this film, which I’m not sure is entirely fair. What is the point of a film, anyway? I believe that differs for different people, but it is usually to be entertained, amazed or challenged. Sure, After.Life doesn’t lead anywhere, but I was utterly gripped throughout so I don’t really have any cause for complaint. I don’t think anyone can deny the fact that After.Life was an interesting film, at the very least, but I suppose a ‘circular narrative’ is not to everyone’s taste. If you are the type of person who dislikes ambiguous endings and a story which simply raises questions without necessarily answering them, then perhaps this film is not for you. However, it is exactly this which I liked about the movie – the fact that it was not afraid to buck the trend and go against conventions. We’ve seen the whole ghost story a million times before (as in The Others and even Beetlejuice!) so this definitely was a fresh take on the idea of death. In this respect, it is more like a Japanese horror movie, as they tend to build gradually and be more about creating a creepy atmosphere than filling every moment with action-packed drama.
This movie plays delightfully on people’s fear of death, as this is something which unites every single human being, something which we can all relate to. Considering this was the director’s first time at directing a feature length movie, it is a very fine effort indeed, and I would be interested to see how she develops her skills in her further works. I definitely recommend this movie, however, I think that one should be prepared to be puzzled during the course of the film and not to expect the usual Hollywood ending where everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow. Finally, if any of the guys reading this need some further incentive, perhaps this will help, Christina Ricci seems to spend a significant portion of the film topless – some might consider this in itself to be a good enough reason to watch the movie!