Reviewed By Ross Hughes
After Life is an oddity!
Its not that good, but its not exactly awful. It also makes you want to watch it until the very end, despite your brain telling you to switch it off and put something better on! It has a great cast acting their socks off and a new director whose care and attention must be applauded and clearly shows a talent in the offering. But somehow the film is destined for poor reviews, many fans confused at what seems the plausibility of the whole premise and others bemoaning the lack of blood and the usual cliche moments that make the teen crowd flood to the cinema on a weekend. It also has many flaws that you can not help but fault, during and after the credits roll. But there is something to like about After Life, a horror that is not exactly an horror, but has a few moments that will make you gasp, a whole concept that will have you guessing right to the very end and that is the strongest most important strength of After Life, the Intrigue will overwhelm you, you may not be enjoying it, but its hooked you now, and you need to find out exactly what the heck is going on!
Christina Ricci has defiantly moved on from her childhood status, anyone who remembers that sweet girl from Adams Family may be forever disturbed at how she quite comfortably spends the majority of this film naked. Now many actresses only say they only go topless if its a necessity for the plot, well here it is, you see Ricci plays Anna, a young woman with a troubled life who has just argued with her boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) and drives off in the rain only for then to wake up in a morgue. At first she thinks she is ok, she is talking and alert and when the mortician Eliot, a quite wonderful Liam Neeson talks back to her, she breathes a sign of relief that everything is ok. That is until Eliot explains to her that he has a gift, he can see the dead and that his job is to give them comfort until they pass over, and poor Anna is the next soul that needs his help. Shocked and hurt, Anna refuses to believe him and screams that she is alive, but Eliot with a calm composure tells her that all the recently deceased go through these emotions and that its only natural to feel this way. Showing her the death certificate, making her touch her cold body that seems grey and already decaying, Anna refuses to believe that she is dead, and tries to escape from the locked morgue, but each time finds herself thwarted by circumstances that seem that she is destined to stay there.
On the outside her grieving boyfriend Paul refuses to believe that she is dead and when Eliot refuses to let him see the body because he is not family, it sends him on a collision course of self destruction, especially when a young boy tells him that Anna is alive, not dead, and this confuses Paul even more who demands the police to look into the case which goes nowhere when a police officer informs the young man that he himself saw Anna that morning, in the morgue and she was very much dead!
But this is the beauty of the film! There are hints that Eliot may be lying, that Anna is very much alive, but then why does she look as if she is dead, and how come all the police reports suggest that there was a car crash and she was indeed dead on the scene. But if she is dead, how can she phone Paul and beg for help and he can clearly hear her, but if that is the case, then how when that Police Officer arrives, he clearly sees a dead Anna on a slab!
Its the intruige that will make viewers sit down and watch it all. It really does make you want to see what outcome it delivers. Is Eliot a secret serial killer? Or is Anna really dead, its a concept that should not work and at times it does not, but there is such pull that you can not dismiss it even though many will find it a bore. One thing that it has going for it is wonderful imagery and its beautifully filmed by first time director, Angineszka Wojtowicz Vosloo who uses the colour red like M.Night Shayamalan done so vividly in the Sixth Sense. But there are no scare moments to match that Bruce Willis flick. The only thing they share in common is that Eliot seems to have the same gift as Cole, and we only see this in practice with Anna, the only recently dead in the morgue.
It really is a talkie film. A cross breed of genres with each one failing to take hold. Despite being the last name on the credits in which you assume is mainly a cameo, the film belongs to Liam Neeson who brings out a very creepy vibe at times but also a sadness. This is a man who is dedicated to his job and whose only friends are those of the dead. He feels he gets no apprectaion from the outside world and he embraces the life he lives, the help he gives to the dead, its quite mundane but he gets by, and the thrill he has of helping the dead makes him at ease. But again, has he the gift that he says he do!
It does not help that Anna does stupid things. We are expect to believe that for a girl who thinks she is alive not dead, stays quiet when her boyfriend is knocking on the door of the morgue. Yes there are many times that you have to just suspend all realistic beilef and while Ricci looks quite at ease being naked and fair play to the girl, she really has grown into a fine young woman (cough!), her character finds it hard to get the sympathy that it requires. She starts off as highly strung and very complicated and even in death (or is she!) she whines so much about her predicatament that it does become tiresome, endless scenes of her taling about not wanting to be dead, cut then to her grieving boyfriend who can not forget about her, it stays at one pace through out and it will test the patience of many!
Yes, the film turns into a twisty turner towards the final outcome, one thing leds to another and then to another, an introduction of a young boy who believes he can see the dead is never really followed through, there are some ghostly visons that seem out of place, one in particular sees Paul dreaming of Anna in the shower in which she rips out her heart, its pointless and seems way out of place in a film that is trying to be serious and not to sell out to the horror crowd.
Its a mish mash that will have you intrigued by the is she or isn’t she?, but beyond that, there is not much to offer apart from the performance by Neeson, its a werid film that only a few will find love with, while most will look upon it as a waste for all those involved!
OVERALL: An intriguing premise for about half and hour, then it slips into a slow tedious pace before picking up again with a finale that may just have too many ideas above its station. But is beautifully filmed and new director Vosloo may be one to look out for