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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ah, here we see yet another self-assuming, clunky mess of a film. We
should have known, having seen the pretentious dot that has been placed
between the two words of the title for no apparent reason.
The opening is somewhat promising, involving a bored and depressed Christina Ricci, who gets involved in a budget-effective car crash and wakes up in a funeral parlour with the grim Liam Neeson looming over her, explaining that she is in fact, dead. That he tells her her blood flow has stopped before promptly injecting her with drugs (a rather pointless endeavour for someone with no circulation) denies the essence of her film-long confusion. But that doesn't seem to bother anyone at this point, because we like to give movies the benefit of the doubt, don't we. Unfortunately, Ricci's sole demonstrable skill in the film appears to be going from squeaky desperation to grim, monotonous acceptance and back again in a matter of minutes. This simply serves to add more confusion to the already bizarre plot, and ultimately makes us unsympathetic during the final scenes.
The problem with the film is that it has no idea what it is. The director has clearly been hoping for a cut above the average horror flick, but there is not enough originality or wisdom to transform it into anything else. The result is a cheap and excessively melodramatic B-side horror, which lacks the spooky scares that make its tawdry counterparts so much more exciting. The fact that the film takes itself so very seriously throughout makes it all the more infuriating.
One of the film's very few silver linings is Liam Neeson's understated performance as the unhinged funeral director, convincingly dishing out a mix of soothing sobriety and chilling psychosis, and managing to drag some life out of the clumsy and repetitive script. But then, you'd expect that from a man so undeniably bad-ass that he's even played an actual lion in a film.
A diluted and overlong episode of The Twilight Zone, for horror completists and fans of Ricci's feminine form only.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW
I find the ending worth a mention. Downer endings are all well and good in the right context. When the film's content is strong, and there is method and moral to the disappointment, one can still come away from it feeling rewarded, or at least provoked into contemplation.
Unfortunately, none of this is applicable to After.Life. The film's plot relies on the prospect of a recovery and reconciliation between its two leads; the character development is too thin and plot points too few and far between to allow for anything else. So, after having sat through an hour and a half of dreary nothingness, we as a now solidly popcorn-eating audience expect the alleviation of some form of resolve, to reward us for enduring the rest of the film and to tick one final box in the series of clichés that it has been following so avidly throughout. But unfortunately, the film seems to think that a negative finale is a one-way ticket to critical acclaim. And once upon a time, it was, but now this is simply not enough. And so, we are left with an uninspired and underwhelming descent into rigor mortis, with the bad guy living to strike again, and again, and again. God forbid.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I understand that this is a film that will divide opinions. Perhaps it
is intelligent. Perhaps it has a most wonderful, original idea for a
movie that made me rent it in the first place. Perhaps Liam Neeson and
Christina Ricci are wonderful actors. But it doesn't change the fact
that the film simply has too many flaws. You can accept a few in an
otherwise good film, but having too many of them simply destroys the
atmosphere. That is precisely what happened in this case, in my
Allow me to elaborate. George Lucas once said that a movie doesn't have to follow the rules of our reality in order to be believable, it just needs to follow the rules of its own reality. This is exactly where this movie fails. It creates an unexplained horror world where something absurd happens every now and then: lights go out every time a lady walks past them with a big noise until the whole corridor has turned black (how cliché is THAT?!), plastic bumping head starts suddenly moving for no apparent reason, following a guy when he is walking. I wish the movie would have at least allowed me to believe that it was something the characters imagined in their heads, as in some other, more respectable scenes. But no, the guy didn't even see the lifeless bumpy head moving, it just did so for no apparent reason. What is so "psychologically thrilling" about that?
These kinds of events go on and on. For example, after the might-be-dead lady escapes from the man holding her as prisoner, she suddenly starts bumping into walls (in a straight corridor!) and making a terrible noise. Possibly we are supposed to assume that she is so scared she has become hysteric, but then again she didn't seem hysteric either in the previous or in the following scene, nor is she in any immediate danger - the guy holding her as prisoner isn't really threatening in any way.
The words "for no apparent reason" are key words for several events in this movie. Believibility requires a reason for a cause. This movie doesn't provide them, just irregular events placed around the plot - events that more often than not don't affect the plot any way, I might add.
The most disturbing part for me, however, was the way it dealt with the questions of life and death. It tries to talk about in-depth questions - what happens to us when we die, and are we really that alive when we live our pathetic fear-run lives, and so forth - but ends up stating clichés such as "we die to make life more meaningful" or something along those lines. Something we have heard billion times before in every funeral (or B-class drama movie) we've gone to. The movie is filled with tons of other clichés as well - along the lines of "you are more afraid of living than of dying", and a small child telling the woman "I am you" when she asks who the kid is in her nightmare (or whatever you call them weird visions all the characters keep getting every now and then), and so forth. And the worst part is, these clichés just won't stop! There is hardly any action, just line after line, and EVERY SINGLE LINE seems to be one I've heard a dozen times before! I wonder if the screenwriters were on strike when this film was scripted, because a good idea just falls flat this way.
And finally - what exactly happens to a person when he/she dies? The question of whether he/she will go on living as a spirit of some sort is an intriguing question. That is a question that doesn't seem to concern this movie at all. The question that does concern this movie - whether the body can go on living, running in the hallways and throwing stuff around - is not an intriguing one, not to me at least. Sure, one could respect it in a 50's style zombie-horror-movie. And if this was one, I might accept it. But this isn't one. This is supposed to be an intellectual movie raising intellectual questions about life and death. To assume that we should even consider the possibility that a MATERIAL BODY jumping around throwing things (and BREATHING, for Christ's sake) could be DEAD, is underestimating the intelligence of the same audience for whom the movie is sold to as an "intelligent psychological thriller".
All of the above is more or less absurd. And I am a person who finds absurdity amusing. I suppose one could respect a movie for making one burst out a laughter every few minutes. But if its unintentional, there seems to be something wrong with either the script or directing (sometimes acting, too, but not in this case). Seriously, I did laugh every now and then. Out loud too, not just inside my head. And an "intelligent psychological thriller" shouldn't make you do that.
Liam Neesom is a wonderful actor - once again. That gives this film two stars. Third one for a good attempt to create something original - even though in my eyes the attempt somewhat failed in this case. I would love to give more stars to an original and a clever idea, but every time I try to go for the fourth a picture of the moving plastic head bumps into my head and once again I begin to laugh.
Driving carelessly in the rain one night, Anna Taylor has a car
accident which kills her. She is DOA, or is she. Anna wakes up in the
basement of the local funeral home, and the funeral director tells her
that she is dead (with a certificate to prove it). He also tells her
that he can talk to the dead. Anna wants out, but he will not let her
leave, claiming that she must accept the truth. Is she really dead or
is he nuts?
After Life has a great set-up, but from there, things get worse. What keeps the viewer hooked is the promise of an an upcoming climactic twist, like that in the Sixth Sense (the film which After Life has its roots in). Unfortunately, with each passing chapter, it becomes more evident that the outcome we would like is not going to come.
Yet what is more bothersome about After Life is that frankly it is dull. I see an idea here, but I don't see a movie. After Life recalls Awake in that it functions well as an experiment in psychologically related themes, but it doesn't provide exiting or suspenseful material. After Life has really nowhere to go, but down. Despite being partial fantasy, its inability to make sense is aggravating and not acceptable. After Life could have and should have been way more potent than this.
What does it mean to be alive? Not a question you're going to find
broached in 10,000 B.C. or 2012. But it is a question first time
director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo tackles in After.Life with
surprising depth and skill. Christina Ricci plays Anna, a woman
disconnected from her almost fiancé (Justin Long) and alienated by her
mother, who moves about her days in a mostly apathetic haze. For the
most part Anna's life seems, well, rather lifeless - until she wakes up
on mortician Liam Neeson's slab only to learn that she is in fact dead.
What exactly that means is the mystery.
My favorite way to see a movie is when I know next to nothing about it (so I won't spoil anything here!), and that's how I went into the AFI screening of After.Life last night. I knew the basic premise and a little about the story, but other than that - nada. Which I have to say is a great way to approach a thriller. The highlight for me was Liam Neeson (no real surprise there) who brings surprising warmth and complexity to what could have otherwise easily been a very two-dimensional character. The other standout was Chandler Canterbury as Jack, Anna's young student who has a little figuring out of his own to do. Their performances alone are worth the price of admission. The director's attention to detail, dream imagery, and color (most notably a scene where Neeson washes the dye from Ricci's hair as she lies stretched across an embalming table) reminded me of the stark, Gothic beauty of Six Feet Under and Dexter. That said, this film isn't cut and dry, doesn't tie everything up neatly at the end, and asks more questions than it answers. It's definitely not your typical American movie - something I consider a positive aspect. If you don't, then I'd suggest skipping this one an netflixing Twister.
After Life explores the beliefs about the soul and what happens to it
after we die.
The film is about Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci), a school teacher who supposedly dies in a traffic accident. She wakes up and finds herself in a mortuary with the undertaker, Elliott Deacon (Liam Neeson), talking to her, explaining that she is dead.
However, as time goes on, it becomes evident that not everything is what it seems. Deacon always locks the doors as if afraid that she may escape and every attempt she has made to communicate with her boyfriend, Paul Coleman (Justin Long) is disrupted by Deacon.
Is Anna really dead? Or does the undertaker have a more sinister plan for keeping her?
The film keeps you in suspense and guessing until the very end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Did most of these reviewers actually watch the same movie as me. There
will be spoilers in this review so watch out :)
The basic story of the movie concerns a young girl, clearly struggling with life and her relationships. After a car crash she 'awakens' in a mortuary only to be told that shes dead. The rest of the movie covers Liam Neeson (the undertaker)and his attempts to convince her that she is in fact dead and help prepare her for her funeral. But is she really dead?
This movie is not about life after death. Its not about what happens when you die. This movie is about people not really living their lives, wandering through life like they're dead already. I think its fairly obvious that the main character is in fact very much alive when taken to the undertaker. Numerous clues point to this in the movie, breath on the mirror, the 'muscle relaxant' that shes injected with and the fact that shes walking around and has to be locked in :)and finally to confirm that Neeson is lying, in the final scenes he clearly kills the boyfriend. But the movie has several scenes that seem to ruin this, and push the film to seeming supernatural grounds. With numerous scenes, or nightmare scenes like the confrontation with her younger self, and the old woman's corpse walking and talking. These slightly detract from the overall focus of the storyline, but keep you guessing if she is alive or dead.
In the end, this is a good movie, with an interesting story and direction, only slightly let down by some of the scenes. Well worth a watch.
After a horrific car accident, Anna (Christina Ricci) wakes up to find
the local funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) preparing her
body for her funeral. Confused, terrified and feeling still 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 (Justin Long) still can't shake the nagging suspicion that Eliot
isn't what he appears to be. Paul desperately tries to convince the
local Police Chief (Josh Charles) that Anna's alive. But the more he
investigates her death, the more they question his sanity. 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
After Life is a clever psychological thriller with a very creepy and mysterious atmosphere. The concept behind the story is very cool but the execution is definitely what made the film. Is Anna alive or is she dead? That is the big question of After Life and the film goes back and forth delivering several clues, some subtle, some not so much. And even though the film tries to be ambiguous, by the end, it's pretty clear what happened. Still, it will drive you crazy, in a good way of course. The film also poses some interesting questions regarding the nature of life forcing the viewer to reflect on his own existence.
Liam Neeson did a good job and Christina Ricci was exceptional in her role. Justin Long however, was largely disappointing. Overall, it's nothing outstanding but definitely a very entertaining flick and the director was able to put a different spin on a often used concept.
After-Life embraces the mystery/thriller sub-genre of the drama genre's
style and refuses to relent even up to and after its conclusion. The
film relies on the question of whether or not those in the funeral home
are dead or only being led to believe they are dead. Despite having
evidence for both sides of this issue displayed throughout the film,
you will be left to decide for yourself as to which side you believe.
It is possible that both scenarios occur actively in the film. This
film has a "Saw" style of lesson-learning involved in the story. It
seems that the inability to love is the motive in After-Life whereas
the inability to live life is Jigsaw's motive.
While the acting from Justin Long & Christina Ricci is on par with their other performances in recent history, Liam Neeson offer a performance that will rival his performance in Taken. Neeson is the reason this film is so suspenseful because he is able to create a character that can be viewed as delusional, insane, psychotic, or "gifted" without forcing the audience to believe only one of these characteristics.
Entertainment wise this film is not a blockbuster but connects many good directorial and cinemagraphical elements. The musical score is as eerie as John Carpenter's Halloween score. There is not much bad that can be said about this film. The shot choices are sensible and simple without being overtly creative. This is a film that allows the story to evolve on its own and the actors to the story its character.
The school teacher Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) is a troubled woman
that uses many pills along the day and is incapable to love due to the
creation of her dysfunctional mother. When her boyfriend Paul Coleman
(Justin Long) is promoted but needs to move to Chicago, he invites her
to a fancy dinner to propose her. However Anna does not listen to him
and believes he wants to quit their relationship, leaving the
restaurant totally disturbed and upset. She has a car accident and
awakes in a funeral home, where the director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson)
is preparing her body for the funeral service. Anna tells him that she
is not dead, but Eliot shows her death certificate and explains that he
has the gift of listening to the dead. Along the days and the nights,
Anna faces her fears and Eliot slowly tries to convince her to accept
her death. But Anna does not believe that she had died and tries to
communicate with Paul. Is she really dead or alive?
"After.Live" is a terrific bleak tale and one of the best horror movies that I have recently seen. The ambiguous story provided leads to the viewer to decide whether Anna Taylor is dead or alive but the conclusion is actually open to interpretation. Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci totally or partially naked most of the time have top-notch performances, supported by an intelligent and original screenplay, tight direction and awesome music score. The atmosphere is melancholic, and the dark colors are contrasted by the red of blood, hair dye and dress. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
A funeral director appears to have the gift of speaking to dead, and
help with their passing to the either side. However, his latest work is
a young female school teacher, but is she really dead or is he
fulfilling a sick fantasy.
Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Voslo's After-life is intriguing, thought provoking and original throughout. The stark style of filming is reminiscent of Body to Body (2003) aka "Corps à corps".
While most of film centres around the character of Anna Taylor it is a wise casting choice by Matthew Lessall as beautiful Christina Ricci gives an emotional performance as a girl who's is not sure if she is dead or alive. Although, Ricci is on the mortuary slab and semi-nude for most part of the film, comparably to Anna Falchi in Dellamorte Dellamore (1994), to Wojtowicz-Voslo's credit it's never in an explicit or over sexualized presentation.
Liam Neeson is convincing as the mortician Eliot Deacon in a subtle performance where he communicates with the dead. He's creepy and cold, although not given a back story, his character has many layers. The tension between Neeson and Ricci is note-worthy and create some great moments.
Die Hard 4 star Justin Long is average as Ricci's fiancée, as he doesn't have the convincing weight of the other players. However, Young Chandler Canterbury as the little boy Jack is memorable. The supporting cast are a mix of familiar face's including Josh Charles and Shuler Hensley and the other officers.
Direction, lighting and music create an eerie atmosphere for this effective thriller mystery. There's horror too in the way of Anna Taylor's visions and Deacon working on the deceased prepping their bodies.
Overall, simmering entertainment with a closing act to ponder over.
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