Directed by: Angieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo Cast: Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci, Justin Long Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins Rating: R Release Date: April 9, 2010
PLOT: A young woman (Ricci) gets into a fatal car accident and is taken care of by an undertaker (Neeson) who may or may not be able to speak to the dead.
WHO'S IT FOR?: People who enjoy sitting in on a stranger's funeral.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew nothing about this movie except that it starred Christina Ricci and Liam Neeson. I didn’t even read Calhoun’s trailer write-up!
Liam Neeson as Eliot Deacon: In another movie, this cryptic funeral home owner might work. As a man with a purpose, Neeson is able to convince the audience he’s an undertaker who very well could have a special power to communicate with the dead. The story makes his character the right amount of odd, but it's Neeson’s performance that makes him truly interesting. Score: 5
Christina Ricci as Anna Taylor: I can’t imagine it would be easy to make a “dead” character interesting, especially when they are devoid of many zombie-like tendencies. Ricci spends much of the time being a dead damsel in distress, with the big bad psycho-undertaker continually convincing her that she’s past the point of saving. She loses her obnoxiousness when she is trapped in the funeral home, but its still not much of a good performance from Ricci. At least it’s better than Long's. Score: 3
Justin Long as Paul: This poor dude was just trying to propose to his girlfriend when she took the “We need to talk” phrase negatively (and into an oncoming car). When trying to figure out whether she is dead or not, he takes the similar whiny path, and tells anyone that gets in his way to “f**k off” or “go to hell.” His grief is cheesy, and his attempts at being a heroic lover are null. Score: 2
TALKING: When “preparing” Ricci’s body, Neeson has many discussions with her talking corpse about the importance of death, etc. (“It helps us appreciate life,” he says). These tangents make him sound like he shares the ideology of someone like Jigsaw from the Saw series. Score: 3
SIGHTS: After.Life basks in deconstructing the myths behind funeral home procedures – any homogenization from a movie such as My Girl is exposed with the presentation of tools and the certain tasks a director performs when preparing a body. Equally unnecessary is Ricci’s consistent nakedness. Even as a corpse she is completely naked for a good amount of time, but, you know, she's dead. I would hope that something like that would make even Mr. Skin puke, but either way – no thanks. Score: 3
SOUNDS: The "horror" of the movie is cued by a cheap score that loves to swell up on its audience. Worse enough, "Exit Music (For A Film)" by Radiohead plays during the credits. Oh, jog on, After.Life - you don't deserve to have Radiohead in your soundtrack. Even New Moon is more worthy of having Thom Yorke's voice lyrically connect to a story than you. Score: 2
BEST SCENE: It is not possible to choose a scene that is "the best," as its all pretty miserable. The overall experience of After.Life has me thinking about other really terrible trips I’ve made to the movies before. However, there’s a thin slice of comfort offered by this movie that, yes, perhaps Old Dogs isn’t as painful when put in perspective.
ENDING: Anna is buried, but is she alive or not? ... Who cares?
QUESTIONS: Who keeps hiring the worst coroner ever?
REWATCHABILITY: Hahaha. I needed that laugh. Sorry, but that's my answer for "rewatchability" with this film.
Here’s a relentlessly morbid movie about death that is too busy creating misery to allow its audience any breathing room to “accept death.” The central question of the movie is whether Anna is alive or not – she could indeed be dead, or maybe this undertaker is playing with a lot of people’s heads. The film concerns much of its time with this mystery, while introducing a quest by desperate boyfriend Paul who can’t accept her death and thinks that she must be alive ... Yes, that’s a great way to help us “accept death” – tell us that perhaps our lost love ones are alive for longer than we think. With all of this, much of the film takes place inside a funeral home, so death becomes a mood for the film, not just a concept. Neeson’s performance escapes this movie that is all encompassed by death - it's difficult to pin-down just how weird he is. Still, that doesn’t make for a good enough reason to go out and see this miserable deathtrap.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10