Director – Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Cast – Christina Ricci, Justin Long, Liam Neeson, Chandler Canterbury, Celia Weston, Luz Alexandra Ramos, Josh Charles, Rosemary Murphy, Malachy McCourt, Shuler Hensley, Alice Drummond
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After.Life is a film I really did not plan on watching so soon(I have other films higher on my priority queue) , but I was given an opportunity to give this one a watch so I took it mainly due to the fact that Liam Neeson is in this one. We rarely get this fine actor in the horror realm, so this was the film’s biggest selling point to me(yes, I can be corrupted). I can always appreciate a horror film that shows me something I have never seen before in the genre, and that is mostly the case with After.Life. While the plot was not overly appealing to my tastes, this was a refreshing look into a seldom used horror sub-genre that managed to keep my attention the whole way through thanks to the creative elements thrown in.
After.Life stars Christina Ricci(Sleepy Hollow) as Anna Taylor, an elementary schoolteacher who after having a stupidly dramatic fight with her boyfriend Paul Coleman(Justin Long; Drag Me To Hell, Jeepers Creepers) suffers a tragic car accident. She awakens on an embalming slab, but her confusion turns to fear when the attending mortician Eliot Deacon(Liam Neeson) informs her that she is in fact…dead. According to Eliot, all of the dead react the same way when they “come to” after death, and he informs her that she must remain in the mortuary until her funeral three days away. Despite being unwilling to accept it at first, Anna soon accepts her death, but soon enough events will conspire that will tell her otherwise. Could it be that Eliot is deceiving her?
After reading the storyline, can you say you have seen a film similar to this one? Doubtful. Every so often we get a horror film focusing on the afterlife, but none that focus on the protagonist having to figure out if they are truly dead. I liked that additional element thrown into the story, and thankfully it provides some good and very interesting conflict as well. We can all put ourselves in Anna’s shoes and imagine what it would be like if we ourselves were to wake up on an embalming slab, with our last memory one that seemed like it was not headed in the direction we would like it to. The rest of the storyline plays off this dilemma of Anna’s, which makes for a film with not too many sets given most of it occurs in the funeral home, but I did not mind that one bit thanks to a cool story and positive direction. I really liked how Eliot could speak with Christina, but she was unable to contact anyone else outside of the embalming room. Now, this would leave you to suspect that she truly is dead, but certain other developments thrown in here and there will leave you questioning that, and that makes for some fun discussion after the film’s climax.
Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo(yeah, I can’t pronounce it either) did a fine job selling this film, with unique visuals that are well shot and great execution throughout the film’s 104 minute runtime. For a non-action-oriented horror film that runs nearly 105 minutes you should expect the film to drag a bit, but that really was not the case here. The film is slow, yes, but it never really drags very much, which I must credit to Ms(yes, a lady). Wojtowicz-Vosloo because such a feat is only accomplished by a great story and good execution/direction to go with it. For a film taking place in such an environment, we really do not get much gore in this one, but you will never notice. The performances in this watch are good, with Liam Neeson naturally taking the cake as the suave show-stealer that he is.
So if this is such a good film then why only a 6-rating? Well, this one just came with some plot holes/screw-ups that I could not forgive. For one, we get some good developments thrown in that definitely spark the viewer’s interest into what is going on, but they were never manifested into anything for the film WHATSOEVER. Now, according to me(my review, my rules) that qualifies as some lazy writing merely put into the film to keep the viewers interest, but nothing worthwhile in regards to the film itself. To further this, there are numerous plot holes regarding whether or not Anne is really alive, which yes is pretty cool because it causes debate between the viewers, but I found them to be a bit too contrasting to be taken seriously, which also left me feeling that these ideas were written into the film to mess with the viewer, and not take us anywhere. Had we been given the same sweet developments but with story-cohesion attached then this film would have fared a higher rating.
Overall, this is a unique film that brings some interesting ideas to this seldom used afterlife sub-genre, but suffers from some plot holes that are just not forgivable. The direction is good, and the acting performances are well-done, but in the end all we have is a film that you may or may not remember six months from now.