Wednesday, April 7, 2010

AFTER.LIFE get some theatrical life, but full-length scare fests can be difficult

Making little sense on any level -- fantasy, reality, literal, metaphoric -- AFTER.LIFE, the cretinous collaboration between writer/director Agnieszka Woztowicz-Vosloo (shown below) and screenwriter Paul Vosloo, might be the ultimate Polish joke, with us viewers in the role of the butt. A creme-de-la-creme cast (Christina Ricci, Justin Long, Liam Neeson in the lead roles) tries its damndest to make hay while the dark gathers. Whatever decent moments the movie offers, thanks can be laid at this threesome's feet (with additional for the director of photography Anastas N. Michos).

Ms Woztowicz-Vosloo's debut short Pâté (unseen by me) evidently created an award-winning stir nearly a decade back. The difference between filling 30 and 103 minutes can be daunting, however, and here the filmmakers simply grab a bunch of cliches and run with them, back and forth, back and forth, until you want to cry uncle, aunt and every distant relative you can think of that might stop the nonsense from continu-
ing.  This insistently annoy-
ing, back-and-forth rhythm comes from the Vosloos' premise of an "Is she or isn't she?" plot device, the object of which, in this case, is "dead."

Now, you might imagine that a person's being dead or alive would be rather apparent.  Not to the dolt on view here (played by poor Ms Ricci).  It isn't like the Vosloos don't drop enough hints (and then repeat them): breath on a mirror, anyone? At one point the good doctor, er, funeral director, played by Liam Neeson, suggests that by looking in the mirror, Ms Ricci will ascertain her status.  She does, and of course we think -- Ah, there will be no reflection there (we've seen a lot of movies in our time, buster!).  But, wait: her reflection is quite visible in that mirror.  And it looks and moves just like Ms Ricci -- who promptly decides that, because she appears pale, OK, she must be dead.  Oy, gevalt!  Get this character a brain transplant.

I could go on (god know, the movie does), but let's proceed to film-making techniques.  Aside from the stately and often beautiful wide-screen cinematography, there are some nice editing moments: scenes change via one person bending over a mirror at a sink, another rising up from one; someone getting into bed; another getting out.  There are those de rigueur  "nightmare" sequences which we must first imagine to be taking place in real-life (now there's a surprise we haven't seen for the past two to three hours).  One of these "fantasies" is so lengthy, tiresome and silly, that it practically stops the movie in its tracks.  Ah, yes: and the suspense sequences. You've probably never seen a character trying to find, amongst a large ring full of keys, the one that actually fits the lock.  You have?  Well, then, instead of  "the suspense is killing me," try "the suspense is boring me."

My favorite moment (again, repeated many times throughout the film), is one of the Neeson character's particular line readings: "Oh, you people!" he intones, giving it just the sort of spin you'd use when talking down to Blacks, Gays, Hispanics, or, hey, Poles.  But in this case, he's talking to the "living" dead -- who are just too stupid to know their status.  Neeson makes the moment choice fun.
Would that there were more of these.

Finally, there are simply too many plot holes here, and I think they all stem from a premise that is so nitwit that it's doubtful any screenwriter/director could make it work. For now, we know that this team certainly could not.  After.Life (where is Kore-eda when you need him?!), from Anchor Bay Films, opens Friday, April 9, nationwide. I'll try to have a link to playdates, or at least a mention of cities and theaters, soon....

No comments: