Day 19: Female-Helmed Horror Movies For October
Directed and Co-Written By Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
1 hour, 44 minutes
I watched it on Shudder.
Christina Ricci stars as Anna in “After.Life.” (Not sure why that period in the middle of the title but I swear it’s there.) Anna is restless and unhappy in her life, even though she seems to like being a teacher and has a sweet boyfriend named Paul (Justin Long). And then things get worse. She gets in a car accident and dies. She wakes up on a metal table at a funeral home. This is where she meets Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), the funeral home director there to prepare her body for the funeral. She can’t feel her body but she can still talk and think and she’s understandably confused and scared. Deacon is not freaked out by this because it happens to him all the time, he says. He has a gift. He can talk to the dead and help ease their transition into the afterlife.
This really doesn’t ease Anna’s mind at all. She asserts, “I’m not dead.” Deacon just dismisses this, “You all say the same thing. You should rest now.” As he leaves, Anna screams out, “I can’t be dead! This must be a nightmare. Wake up!” And then her boyfriend wakes up alone.
This leads to the central question of the movie: is Deacon a medium who really can talk to the dead or is he some kind of serial killer who drugs people into seeming dead? Is Anna really dead or is Deacon just telling her that? That’s a pretty creepy premise and watching Anna’s journey is unsettling, but I was never really sure where the tension laid. What was I rooting for here? To aid in building tension, they kept bringing Paul back. He can’t accept Anna’s death so he keeps trying to see her at the funeral home. There’s a big payoff to that but it was so vague and confusing, it led to the ending overall being frustrating. It certainly didn’t help that Ricci and Long have zero chemistry to start with, so I actually thought they were supposed to break up at the beginning. So that takes some of the air out of him potentially rescuing her.
I found Liam Neeson mysterious and compelling as usual. He plays it so sincere and with restrained annoyance, like he’s explaining to a kid why they can’t have dessert since they didn’t eat their dinner. He’s had to tell these dead people over and over again that they are, in fact, dead. Many individual beats of the film are moving. You can’t talk about death and regret and love without hitting some feels, but it just didn’t quite hit. It wasn’t scary or even creepy, and it spent a lot of time on its supposed scares, so that was awkward. And that ending was a head scratcher. I’d say skippable.
This was Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s first feature film and I can’t find any other credits for her online. These are tricky themes to explore. So while I wasn’t a fan of this one, I applaud her for swinging high.