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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 02.04.14] post apocalyptic apocalyptic thriller

If you think about it, any post-apocalyptic movie is really a philosophical thought experiment in which characters are forced to choose between varying evils. The Walking Dead does this weekly, pitting characters with different values against each other to figure out the how to save humanity without losing it altogether. Do we fight to save the sick and dying when they'll only slow us down? The whole conflict from last season between Rick and Carol is a perfect example of this kind of thought experiment. Without giving anything away, you could easily land on either side of that battle.

After The Dark (formerly The Philosophers) takes this idea to its most literal conclusion: literally having philosophy students debate the pros and cons of tough apocalyptic decision making; the big question of the day being "who do we let into the bunker?" And before I go any further, know that these conversations happen all the time in philosophy classes around the world and they are often as fun and engaging, but ultimately as frustrating as this movie is.

After the Dark is by no means a perfect film, but I found - the first half, at least - to be incredibly engaging. The premise is ambitious in how it portrays each scenario, putting the student's decisions and thoughts into action. The young actors who make up the class are unrealistically pretty, sure, but a talented bunch of newcomers nonetheless. And mega-actor James D'Arcy plays a wonderfully creepy professor who you're never quite sure of.

The film's concept - however unique - is also its biggest problem. Firstly, because there are no stakes. Writer/director John Huddles tries very hard to imply stakes for the characters, but at the end of the day, losing an A+ grade doesn't feel very stake-y. Secondly, it stretches credulity at times and becomes particularly problematic when the line between reality and the experiment blur and the character's true natures start to bleed into this fantasy world. Basically teenage relationship drama starts to play a larger role. I figured this would inevitable be the direction the film would go, but the plot becomes messy and at times confounding and I think a lot of viewers are going to be left scratching their heads about what one reality has to do with the other. Just putting that out there before I go a head and recommend it.

After the Dark is a real oddity. But I like oddities, even when they sort of fall apart under their own ambitions, so I could still easily recommend this film to viewers who are less interested in zombie killing than they are in ideas. Because even when it was confounding and ludicrous I was intrigued enough to be glued to the screen. It's philosophy light to be sure, but still provocative.

After the Dark hits select theatres and VOD on February 7, 2014 so keep an eye out for it.

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chuc k (6 years ago) Reply

I saw this last night and it transported me back to sixth grade, the day after The Day After (odd phrase) was shown on TV. The school counselor came to our class to help us process our fears and feelings and what not. Somehow they thought a rousing game of 'Who gets to live?' would make everything better. We got the list of candidates, including the gay guy with no other skill and the mentally handicapped child, and broke into groups to whittle down the list. It's almost as bad as the time in fifth grade when they showed us The Child Molester, a PSA featuring bloody crime scene photos at the end. We live in a weird world.
This movie could have been better but it could have been much worse. My biggest complaint was that the builder of the shelter could have skipped all the luxury items and chic decor and maybe saved a few more people. I was disappointed that not one of the philosophy students pointed out the decadence of that. I know it was all imaginary, but still.
Sophie Lowe, who played Petra, is gorgeous! I must find more of her work.

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