Last night, I made a mad dash out of work to the one of three theaters in the area that had a late enough showing of After.Life for me to get to it in time. Yes, really, even though I am well aware of just how terrible the name is. Because the concept made up for it, and it’s not like it was a book where I would have to see the text over and over again. And I’m definitely glad I did. Of the two late night horror movies that I see this week, it will almost certainly have been the best, and by a wide margin.

What happens is this: after an unfortunate argument and a brutal car accident, Christina Ricci is trapped between life and death in the basement of a funeral parlor, at the hands (malevolent or beneficial? That is the central question of the plot) of funeral director Liam Neeson; and erstwhile boyfriend The Mac Guy lingers forever around the edges, possibly to lighten the dreamlike quality of the central interactions or possibly to add moderately unneeded melodrama to an otherwise extremely thoughtful film. Because that central plot-driven question is completely beside the point; it is the theme of crossing the veil between life and death that gives the film its real weight. There are certainly hints throughout the opening frames that Ricci is already dead long before any collision occurs, and as each interminable[1] day between death and burial gives way to the next, she looks ever more pale and bloodless and gothic; by the end, she is reminiscent of Wednesday Addams more surely than she has been in years. Despite all these indicators, she clings to her life with a tenacious grip that leaves Neeson ever more exasperated at her unwillingness to accept his assistance in letting go. And that tension between the pull of life and the inevitability of death drives the film along even farther than probably 20 minutes of nudity did[2], much less that potential horror plot I mentioned earlier.

If I may, I think I would like to see more indie horror scripts that explore the same kinds of human questions that are usually relegated to sfnal settings. Thinking man’s horror, if it were to take off, would I’m pretty sure be the first new movie genre I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

[1] To her, that is; despite being slowly paced, nothing ever felt as though it was dragging to me.
[2] Because, yeah, if you can keep me interested in the questions you are raising while Christina Ricci is naked, you’ve probably done a pretty good job with your movie.

One thought on “After.Life

  1. Pingback: 10 Cloverfield Lane | Shards of Delirium

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