AFTER.LIFE - 2009
Lleju Productions, Harbor Light Entertainment, Plum Pictures, Anchor Bay Films
Rated: USA: R
AFTER.LIFE starts off well. Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci: THE ADDAMS FAMILY [all], SLEEPY HOLLOW) is enduring a lackluster sex session with her boyfriend, Paul (Justin Long: JEEPERS CREEPERS [all], DRAG ME TO HELL). When he asks if there is a problem, Anna angrily flips out on him and takes a shower.
Later at a dinner in a nice restaurant, Paul attempts to propose to her, but Anna flies into a rage, misreading betrayal into every word out of Paul's mouth. She throws her drink in his face, and loudly cusses him out, triumphantly leaving Paul alone with his humiliation. It's raining hard and she gets in a car accident. It couldn't happen to a nicer person.
When she wakes, she's on the slab at the local small town mortuary. A man named Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson: DARKMAN, THE HAUNTING, BATMAN BEGINS, CLASH OF THE TITANS ) tells her that he's a mortician, she's dead, everyone who looks at her sees her dead, and only he can see her as she really is: an animated, walking, talking dead woman. She has a gaping, bloodless wound to her head that Eliot sews up while Anna tries to come to terms with her predicament. She feels no pain as Eliot sews her up and that's because, he tells her, she's dead. So this is some kind of zombie tale right?
DOES AFTER.LIFE HAVE A HAPPY ENDING? YOU BET! KATE BOSWORTH AND ALFRED MOLINA GOT OUT OF HAVING TO BE IN THIS MOVIE.
A ghost story?
What the hell is going on then? Good question and one that writers Jakub Korolczuk, Paul Vosloo, and Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo (who also directed) couldn't figure out between the three of them. Or maybe there were too many cooks, or maybe they just have no talent for this kind of thing.
At first Anna must be living in some kind of Twilight Zone. The story at the start certainly glides through Twilight Zone territory, which is all right and not done near often enough. But soon that's pushed beyond its outer limit (HA!) and the movie still has another 70 minutes to go.
So then, AFTER.LIFE is really about Eliot only THINKING he can see and hear dead people walk and talk when they really can't. Right?
When that concept is bled dry, we are left with Anna really being alive and Eliot pretending to be understanding but really being a manipulative homicidal maniac, drugging her with injections (this will relax your muscles) and trying to convince a living Anna that she is dead.
Okay, I'm willing to go along with this, but
why is he doing it?
"You people! You breathe, piss, and shit and you think that makes you alive!"
- Eliot Deacon
and THERE we are, yet another in a damn long and tiresome line of SAW wannabees that implode at the starting gate. Eliot is, for some reason, upset with the living for somehow having it better than him. Hello! Your poorly written, psycho mind-game playing torturer tonight will be Eliot Deacon.
SAW was not a great movie, but it was a pretty good movie. Good enough to capture an audience largely willing to pay to sit through another 5 of them. This is why the audience did that.
In SAW, John Kramer aka Jigsaw was a man dying of cancer and he didn't want to go. As he lay in bed, suffering in great pain and knowing there was no way out, he saw the people who worked in the hospital self-destructing and otherwise wasting their lives, their precious lives that they were in no danger of losing while someone who truly appreciated life - like him - was dying regardless. And he couldn't do anything to change his circumstances and that sent him over the edge. It might not turn you, me, or anyone we know into a homicidal maniac willing to kill the innocent and self-judged alike, but it made sense as to how his character twisted. John was a very compelling bad guy. His insanity was tragic.
Eliot Deacon has no reason for being; no life past or present. Why is he killing people? Because they breathe, piss, and shit? Eliot can't do these things and that makes him mad? We have no idea what his problem is because
Jakub Korolczuk, Paul Vosloo, and Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo had no freaking idea. Even in Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN II, Michael had a motivation to kill and that was one of the worst, most silly-ass motivations I've ever seen in a non-comedy. All the makers of AFTER.LIFE had was a 30 minute solid script that they could stretch out into a 90 minute long slog until Liam, without further development to his character past the first ten minutes, repeats the "You people" line at least two more times. It is so dull that when Christina started showing nipple and butt-crack, I could only raise enough enthusiasm to think "Duly noted".
It's not like AFTER.LIFE doesn't have a few good moments or quips here and there. At one point, as the 'dead' Anna starts to get upset, Eliot tells her, "Perhaps you should rest now." In another scene, Paul shouts down and cusses out an insensitive cop in a police station and gets away with it (so cathartic!). But there are very few movies I've ever seen that didn't have some good touches. Even THE SPIRIT had a couple of good touches.
Justin Long, as Paul, runs around screaming, crying, and going all koo-koo berries (he's becoming the goto guy for this type of character). None of which helps him when he tries to tell people that he knows, somehow someway, that Anna is still alive. But that's also as far as HIS character ever gets.
You know the burial is coming, and when it arrives you assume that the movie is now over, but of course it isn't. And then comes another part where you say, "Ah! NOW the movie is over... but it isn't. Why? Because the folks who made this actually think it will so resonate with audiences that they are trying to tail it out a bit for the expected sequel. So just as I'm starting to wonder if this film ever had a point at all, it abruptly stops, the end credits roll.
I can think of two places where this movie could have ended and it would have been a better movie, but it didn't happen. Of course, I'm sure everyone in the theater had their minds drifting off to a place where this could have been a better movie, but it didn't happen. Sucks to be us.
One Shriek Girl.
KILL IT BEFORE IT BREEDS SEQUELS!
This review copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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