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Friday, January 21, 2011

After.Life (2009) Horror Psychlogical

After.Life (2009) -After Life is a psychological thriller, well thriller may be a strong word. It appears more as a meditative procedural on the supposed transition from life to death. It is a tricky movie that does a decent job with it's tricks. In the film Paul (Justin Long) and Anna (Christina Ricci) are a couple in crisis. Anna is a school teacher in an unhappy relationship and on medication for depression. Paul in line for a promotion and a move to Chicago is desiring to make a proposal to take the next step in their relationship. Seldom do these things work out well, its usually if there is fighting before a long term commitment it become a commitment to long term fighting.
At a fancy dinner we see the couple come so close to the engagement ring but Anna is fucking retahded (that is a Boston word, no offense to the mentally challenged, it is slang for acting in a stupid manner.) and blows the mood by getting all, "Fuck You-ish". Of course Paul shares some of the blame here too, who starts a evening together saying, "Hey, Lets not try to fight tonight okay." Those are words itching for a fight and she obliges. She runs out of the restaurant and goes crying and popping depression pills as she drives too fast through a rain storm. Unfortunately for Anna her ticket is punched and the car crashes. Was it an accident? Why was that white van flashing his lights and tailgating?
Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) is a mortician with a gift. He talks to the recently dead and helps them transition to the afterlife. We see his meticulous procedures as he preps one body. Then oddly he takes a Polaroid of the face staring back at the camera. We see this in the first scene before the credits and thing nothing of it. In fact I am sure the filmmaker wanted us to think nothing of it so later their could be a callback. This is a movie you have to pay attention to, this is an obvious strange thing so it gets you guessing there will be other clues about the nature of this character.
Again in the earlier scene the if you were paying attention to Anna when she went to the funeral home for the wake of her piano teacher you would have noticed the strange interest Eliot took in her. When Anna wakes up in the same funeral home she is confused and asks WTF is going on. Eliot tells her that she is dead and that she like others before her some take time to realize it. Anna is having none of that and insists this can not be true. At this point Eliot is believable, he is doing normal prep of the body. He is convincing but soon, if you pay attention there are obvious clues that something is not right.
He gives her a shot of something telling her that it is something that relaxes the muscles so he can work. Problem is, how would a shot in the neck of a dead person circulate though the body to the muscles. It is also very convenient in paralyzing her so she can not move or talk while her mother comes in to see the body.
Now I do not normally use really harsh terms for people but the Mother, Beatrice Taylor (Celia Weston) is a really selfish asshole. Not only does she break the news of Anna's death to Paul in the cruelest way possible, but she also does not allow him to see the body while it is at the funeral home. He will have to wait until the funeral like everyone else. She also while viewing Anna herself spouts off about how selfish it is of Anna to die, leaving wealthy Mom to care for herself. The writer put her in a wheelchair I think to create some sympathy for what is a really mean character, it did not work.
So this game of am I dead or not goes on for quite awhile and at the halfway point in the story there is a turning point with a mirror that takes all the mystery away. Even if earlier clues did not give it away this definitely does. So now I expected this to turn into a thriller where realization on Anna's part just a bit away and Paul not letting go and finding some way to see her. This does not happen though. Still more am I dead or not, sure Anna seems to think she is gone and we already know one way or the other but still the procedure of getting her ready continues.
Having never written a screenplay I would have tried to leave the audience reveal for the same time that Anna gets her own revelatory reveal. That way audience expectation are not crushed by a script where nothing really happens. This is a point for her where she then just goes with the flow and wonders about what her life has meant. The thrilling part of the film is half way and the air is let out and we all then want it to be over.
Moving to the end because the climax was not so climactic we see a future mortician in Jack and we see that Justin finally gets to see Anna, we learn the significance of the Polaroids and are left feeling a bit empty. It is no wonder this was seen on only 41 screens its opening weekend and totally flopped making only $100,000. Maybe they were going for dread but that never materialized, they were certainly not trying for a thriller. The only real valuable thing the film accomplished was to expose Christina Ricci's Callipygian form in the last half of the film. At least there something was going on if not in the movie in the male viewer.
Rating (4.5) 5.0 and up are recommended

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