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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 11.08.09] movie review horror thriller drama



Year: 2009
Directors: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Writers: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo & Paul Vosloo & Jakub Korolczuk
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Hal MacDermot
Rating: 5 out of 10

Do the dead live, or are the living dead? What does it mean to be dead anyway? Great questions, but I’m not sure if Agnieszka Wojtowicz really manages to answer them. After.life is her first feature, a psychological thriller, and despite some top notch talent in the persons of Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Jason Long, the film never lives up to potential. Liam Neeson’s performance as scary funeral director guy is the saving grace.


Anna (Christina Ricci) wakes up after a car accident and finds herself being prepared for burial in Eliot Deacon’s (Liam Neeson) funeral home. It seems that Eliot has a gift for conversing with the dead, and that’s why he can talk with her. He tells us that his role is to prepare people for their journey to the other side. So yes there’s a whole bunch of not so subtle subtext about what it means to be dead, and what Anna really wanted out of life, and did she really love her boyfriend (Jason Long), or not. But the problem is, we never really do understand what she wants out of life, or whether she loves anyone. Her motivation isn’t clear, and that’s not the fault of Ricci at all, it’s a problem with the script. Perhaps the point is that she doesn’t have the lust for life, but if that’s it, then “blah” to that. If she really wanted to live, and fought for it, things might have become interesting. In case you go watch this movie, I’m not going to give anymore plot details, I can’t because it would spoil the whole thing, but there are notes of Jennifer Lynch’s Boxing Helena, minus the love element.

I thought that Liam Neeson was really well cast here. He has this threatening understated thing which is just great, a twitch of the lips, a sneer, a small gesture, he is indeed The Man. If the writers had actually given him more than clichés to say it would have been awesome. The visual highlights are Christina Ricci laying out a red chemise on morgue board, and later the same, but without the chemise. Wonderful, yes, but not enough to carry the whole movie. Corpses, funeral homes, the dead, that’s really a great world to explore, but the script never digs deep. Live burial is a powerful thing to conjure, think the Bride’s entombment in Kill Bill II, and After.life wastes the opportunity.

Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo won a bunch of awards for her film, Pâté, an apocalyptic short with a gothic twang. Apparently she also worked with Laurie Anderson on something with the Paris Opera Ballet, so I’m guessing she’s got talent. After.life doesn’t demonstrate that.


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Ryan B (8 years ago) Reply

Couldn't agree more. I saw this snoozer at AFM last night and wow, talk about a let down! Some good acting, I just can't figure out what the cast saw in the script. Something had to have been lost on the transfer for script to screen as Liam Neeson is quite frankly too good to be in such a mediocre film.

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Anonymous (8 years ago) Reply

I saw the world premiere of this movie and was embarrassed for the cast as the script, direction and editing made them all look bad. Liam Neeson was perfectly cast and was the only reason I stayed to the end. I kept hoping something would happen or the pace would pick up. Dialog was repetitious and cliche. I can see why the cast accepted their roles in the film as it had potential to be good but the director dropped the ball. I don't blame Liam for canceling his appearance at the premiere. It was beneath his stature for this b movie.

Don't bother

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particulargurl (8 years ago) Reply

Saw this movie as well and... loved it! Totally disagree with the two comments (by the same guy?). The film was creepy and very beautiful. The acting was superb, particularly Liam Neeson who was sensational as both a kind guy helping dead people transition one moment, then incredibly sinister as the film progressed. Christina Ricci was also very good and looked beautiful. It's not your average genre film, it's a lot more intelligent and addresses some big issues (which is why I guess some people hate the movie!).

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uncle Bob (7 years ago) Reply

The director's very well-received post-apocalyptic short film Pâté (2001) probably served as her calling card. I'm looking forward to this, and hope that particulargurl's post is accurate.

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Anonymous (7 years ago) Reply

Sadly the movie's IMDB page/discussion board looks like it was almost exclusively written by people very much interested in the promotion and success of this movie.

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Nick (7 years ago) Reply

I haven't seen the movie yet, so I may have to drastically revise my initial opinion, but just one thought here: maybe the reason why McDermot and Ryan dislike this film is because it has to do with death and, implicitly, subliminal necrophilia, which are scary topics. I'm reminded of a line from William Burroughs --- "Don't send people who hate Italian food to go and review Italian restaurants." Well, don't send people who demure from the subject of death to go and review this kind to movie.

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Hal (7 years ago) Reply

@Nick, no dude, I've no problem with the topic of death/sex, and I love Burroughs! Go check the movie out, and let me know what you reckon

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Hudson (7 years ago) Reply

Saw the trailer and just read the review on Movieweb (which was very positive). I suspect this is one of those films that people either love or hate. Which is great -- there are too many bland "it was OK i guess" movies out there. Something that pushes the enveloped deserves support. I'm going to see the movie and make up my own mind.

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SpacedKadet (7 years ago) Reply

It's clear that anonymous really hated the movie - I always think that's a good thing, to hate a movie so much you take the time to share your thoughts. at least it provoked a reaction (which most films don't these days). i remember the scathing reviews and comments about Donnie Darko. this director obviously has talent, i have a feeling the film might just be one of those films everyone raves about in the future! I for one will definitely see this movie, ironically mainly because of Hal's reviews and anonymous' comments.

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Jennifer (7 years ago) Reply

Just saw that Fangoria gave this movie 3.5 stars out of 4. "AFM's best genre film... kept me guessing until the end (is she dead or not?)" My vote is for the film. It actually sounds like it could be a gem of a movie!

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Bartok (7 years ago) Reply

Just saw the film at a special screening. Absolutely fantastic. Recommend it to anyone who likes their films dark and smart


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