Directed by Robin Schmidt and Gez Medinger.
Starring Miranda Raison, Sam Keeley, Daniella Kertesz, Elarica Gallacher and Lorna Nickson Brown.
Five young people wake up on a beach washed up by the tide. Where are they? What brought them there, and what are the strange creatures that surround them? All this and more will be revealed in this beautifully executed, award-winning first feature, chock full of exciting new acting talent, from Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt – future genre names to keep a sharp eye out for.
Making the jump from short films to feature films can be difficult to accomplish, and when you decide to take on a topic as vast and as all-encompassing as life and death it can add yet more barriers to attaining the goal. It is not impossible, however, as directorial team Robin Schmidt and Gez Medinger have proven with their feature debut AfterDeath.
As the title suggests, the film hypothesises what happens after we pass away and it doesn’t waste any time with backstory as the film opens with a blonde lady on a desolate beach. Freaked out by a black, smoky living shadow she scrambles her way to the only house in sight. Once inside she realises she is not the only person here and she finds herself in the presence of four others, all in their early twenties. She is told in no uncertain terms, and with little compassion, that they are all dead. As they spend more time together in the house they begin to piece together what is happening and why they are all there. Amidst personal revelations, sex, violence and an intermittent bright light that brings with it immense pain they try and work out a way to get to where they want to be and how to get there.
The general presentation of the film is initially not that strong but as the film begins to progress and the plot begins to unravel it reveals a well-developed and thought through plot. The idea that we are all judged before we ascend to heaven or descend to hell is nothing new, and nothing that has not been explored before in films such as The Lovely Bones for example, where a young girl remains on earth until her murder is solved, or Jacob’s Ladder which deals with a wounded soldier who enters purgatory and later ascends to heaven. AfterDeath offers a fresh perspective, a pre-Purgatory tale with a very relevant message. A message that tells the audience that living a pure life, a life that is free from any sin is impossible. Heaven is empty because of this, because it is impossible for a human not to sin in one-way shape or form. Given recent news stories involving those with devout religious beliefs this is an interesting and poignant message.
The performances in the film are strong. Each character is very different offering different personality aspects, a little like F.R.I.E.N.D.S where each character represented an extreme version of an individual’s character. In a similar manner, in AfterDeath each person has a different sin which seems to make up part of their identity. Sam Keeley has one of the most turbulent performances and he carries it off well. He is able to go to the extremes of human emotion from pleasure to pain (emotional and physical) with ease. Ellarica Gallacher (of ‘You can tell me all about that tosser Harry Potter fame in Deathly Hallows) gives a strong performance as the bitchy yet insecure Patricia with the rest of cast giving solid performances.
The narrative pace is up and down. The beginning feels awkward as it jumps straight into the main story with little establishing information or time for the film to settle. It can be assumed this is to represent the suddenness of the death they have experienced. After a bizarre take-off the film then begins to gradually release snippets of information about their predicament and the audience find out more as the characters do, which gives the impression that you are on the journey with them. Although the film essentially takes place in one small house with the same five characters the pace is generally one that keeps the audiences investment. AfterDeath doesn’t feel like it may cause death by boredom.
One of the weaker aspects is the cinematography and computer generated effects. The dark shadow creature that torments the deathtastic five looks as if Gallacher has brought with her a watered down Dementor that has gained a voice, and the cyclic light that causes inexplicable pain brings with it a cheap and substandard montage that seems to be better suited to a B Movie horror. Some of the scripting isn’t ideal and is occasionally unimaginative and typical but the performances over ride that. Given that horror films are so out of the ordinary in terms of context, getting believable and relatable performances can be tricky. AfterDeath does face this issue at times, but not to the extreme that it effects the overall experience of the film.
Ultimately, AfterDeath is a clever film with a unique and well plotted narrative message. The performances are strong and despite some of CGI being less than satisfactory, AfterDeath is able to hold its own against other films of a similar ilk. Have some patients, see past the immediate beginning and the production downsides and allow the film to evolve in front of you and you will be pleasantly, or unpleasantly depending on your viewpoint, surprised.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★