×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

After.Life

An elegant exercise in horror, "After.Life" spins a strong visual web around its thesps.

With:
Anna Taylor - Christina Ricci Eliot Deacon - Liam Neeson Paul Coleman - Justin Long Jack - Chandler Canterbury Beatrice Taylor - Celia Weston Tom Peterson - Josh Charles

An elegant exercise in horror, “After.Life” spins a strong visual web around its thesps — Liam Neeson, magisterially creepy as a self-appointed angel of death, and a pallid Christina Ricci, suitably otherworldly as a woman who awakens after an auto accident, only to be told by Neeson’s mortician that she has died. But the potent imagery never meshes with narrative logic in Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s first feature, promising more than it can deliver. Opening April 9, this uneasy fusion of art-film aesthetics, metaphysical musings and timeworn genre conventions will prove less compelling a draw than Ricci’s un-self-conscious nudity.

Eliot Deacon (Neeson), a very special undertaker ensconced in a posh manor/funeral parlor, not only speaks to the dead as he prepares them for burial, but apparently hears them as well. Deacon’s meticulous movements and calm demeanor stand in sharp relief to the frantic behavior of his latest “corpse,” Anna (Ricci), whom he is ostensibly keeping prisoner for her own good (echoes of Ricci’s legendary chained-to-a-radiator role in “Black Snake Moan”), until she can accept the notion she has passed over.

The action then seesaws between Anna’s slasher-film-style escape attempts and moments of utter resignation as she submits to Deacon’s funeral preparations. Throughout, Wojtowicz-Vosloo deftly contrasts Deacon’s precise, ritualized gestures and royal composure with Anna’s skittering uncertainty. Meanwhile, Anna’s b.f., Paul (Justin Long), races around like a headless chicken, his reactions swinging wildly from paranoia to grief.

Even before she lands on Deacon’s slab, there is something strangely frenetic about Anna, oddly mute one minute, hysterical the next. The escalating misunderstanding that leads to her car wreck plays like an overcranked soap opera, complete with thunder-and-lightning accompaniment.

But on a plot level, few of the psychodrama elements make much sense. The psychological profile proffered by the script (co-written by the helmer and her husband, Paul Vosloo) presents a fearful, withdrawn woman terrified of commitment — or, in Deacon’s moral summation, someone more afraid of life than of death. But Anna’s survivalist responses suggest the opposite: She stands with knife upraised, waiting for Deacon to turn the corner, or desperately phones for help as he menacingly mounts the stairs.

Pic’s relentless pileup of standard-issue red herrings, “gotcha!” reversals and suspenseful cross-cutting seldom prove either titillating or satisfyingly campy; indeed, they seem to weary Anna as much as they do the viewer.

With its inexplicable apparitions and vibrantly hued weirdness, Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s style adapts more cozily to the realm of dreams. As rendered by lenser Anastas N. Michos with admirable clarity, vivid portents swirl around Anna well before her car crash — from the blood-red water spiraling down a drain to the overhead lights inexplicably shutting down as she walks a deserted corridor. Against Ford Wheeler’s stark production design, Anna’s cherry-red slip speaks more eloquently than any line of dialogue.

Rounding out the cast are Celia Weston as Anna’s coldly selfish mom, scooting about in her electric wheelchair like a malevolent spider, and Chandler Canterbury as the solemn little boy who serves as Deacon’s necrophiliac disciple.

After.Life

Production: An Anchor Bay Films release of an Anchor Bay Films and Lleju Prods. presentation of a Plum Pictures production in association with Constellation Entertainment. Produced by Brad Michael Gilbert, William O. Perkins III, Celine Rattray. Executive producers, Cooper Richey, Catherine Kellner, Edwin L. Marshall, James Swisher. Co-producers, Joy Goodwin, Riva Marker. Directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo. Screenplay, Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo, Jakub Korolczuk.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Anastas N. Michos; editor, Niven Howe; music, Paul Haslinger; production designer, Ford Wheeler; costume designer, Luca Mosca; sound (Dolby Digital), Jerry Stein; supervising sound editor, Coll Anderson; re-recording mixers, Dominick Tavella, Anderson; casting, Matthew Lessall. (In 2009 AFI Film Festival, Los Angeles.) Reviewed at Magno Review 2, New York, April 1, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: Anna Taylor - Christina Ricci Eliot Deacon - Liam Neeson Paul Coleman - Justin Long Jack - Chandler Canterbury Beatrice Taylor - Celia Weston Tom Peterson - Josh Charles

More Film

  • First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring

    First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring ‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan

    The first-look image from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ “Monday,” starring Sebastian Stan – best known for “I, Tonya” and the “Captain America” movies – and “Colette’s” Denise Gough, has been released. Protagonist Pictures will launch international sales on the pic in Berlin. “Monday” follows the story of Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough), two Americans in [...]

  • The Wedding

    Film Review: 'The Wedding'

    Two considerations need to exist side by side when discussing “The Wedding,” the debut feature of Egyptian-American multihyphenate Sam Abbas. One involves the film itself, a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore about a heterosexual New York couple fitfully planning their wedding until she discovers his gay dalliance. The other, getting the lion’s share of [...]

  • The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Whether you know a film buff who needs to upgrade their collection, or you just want to upgrade your movie nights at home, here are eight gifts that will cast your favorite flicks in a whole new light. 1. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: The Criterion Collection More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: The [...]

  • Ansel Elgort The Great High School

    Film News Roundup: Ansel Elgort to Star in 'The Great High School Imposter'

    In today’s film news roundup, Ansel Elgort is going to high school, “Rockaway” gets a release, and “Suspiria” producer Bradley Fischer is honored. CASTING More Reviews Film Review: 'The Wedding' Film Review: 'Malila: The Farewell Flower' Ansel Elgort has come aboard to star in the drama “The Great High School Imposter” for Participant Media and [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Oscars: Film Academy Narrows the List of Contenders in Nine Categories

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced shortlists of semi-finalists in nine separate categories. From here, the organization’s separate respective branches will vote to determine nominees, which will be announced along with all other Oscar categories next month. This year marks the first year since 1979 that shortlists have been revealed in [...]

  • Watch Skylar Grey Reenact 'Aquaman' Kiss

    Watch Skylar Grey Reenact 'Aquaman' Kiss Scene With Fiance

    The melody from “Everything I Need,” the song Skylar Grey penned for “Aquaman” is used in the scene — spoiler alert — in which the titular hero (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) kiss while an epic battle rages on around them. Grey and her fiance Elliott Taylor reenacted the kiss in a somewhat similar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content