Five strangers wake-up dead on the beach after a nightclub got too full. They sit inside a mysterious cabin surrounded by an unusual monster and two paintings that may hold the answer to their questions… and perhaps their escape.
With the sign ‘Tabula Rasa’ and a black smoke monster, it is impossible to not draw similarities to Lost, the TV programme. Lost did not invent it all, of course, it drew on famous mythologies to interlock it with its own weird wonderfulness. Lost left some cold with its form, captured the imaginations of others and frustrated almost everyone due to its lack of answers. Back to the main focus of this review, though, AfterDeath does a worse job of controlling the mythology than the crazy, unplanned and writers’ strike riddled TV series that managed to make everything much more interesting even in this chaos. AfterDeath had a production much less tumultuous presumably and has managed to make nothing from it – none of the grandiose mythology, thrilling entertainment, intriguing characters, nor thought-provoking themes.
Five strangers wake up washed ashore on a beach. Their last memory is attending a nightclub that was getting too full for comfort. At first, they believe it’s their only connection but time unravels secrets that start to reveal more about their current situation. While they start to find out more about each other, two mysterious paintings on the walls taunt them with potential answers. Oh and they’re dead. Important information. Sadly, that all promises more than it delivers.
The opening POV shot that AfterDeath opens with is a summation of its quality; tensionless, confusing, poorly shot and lacking. Directors Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt cannot offer up enough on their end, struggling to utilise cinema’s qualities to evoke the stimulation required to sustain it. It’s a dry bone in every aspect when you need it to be fully-fleshed in ideas, themes and executions. The themes of religion, death and the idea of sin are provocative, the mind instantly pulses at the thought, yet the directors and the film do nothing to push it into territory worth visiting. All that is worth the time can be created from someone mentioning these ideas in passing, rather than spending 89-minutes skimming the surface in this.
Characters are meant to be individual and engaging. Although all differentiate from each other, that individualism does not mean that they are interesting. The characters, whose backstories are revealed through dialogue in exposition-heavy scenes, do not have that interesting story to help. What really is a great part of this film, one that is well-handled by directors and writer Andrew Ellard, is the issue of sexual consent. Consent is put plainly and used to vilify a character who clearly mistreats boundaries and does not understand how intoxication may impede that.
Between the film’s lack of commitment to its more interesting elements, dull characters and ramshackle narrative, there is not much worth noting in AfterDeath. The clues the characters ‘discover’ that relate to its narrative are clumsy, put together with hearsay and conviction to ideas that only the lead character knows will work regardless of being new to the world. The acting is clearly acting, no immersion to them, which is subsequently made flatter by the editing that fails to give a good pace or make conversations visually interesting.
All in all, the film is sadly why direct-to-DVD – now direct-to-VOD – have negative connotations. AfterDeath is another horror film that cannot deliver on a premise that promises to be more than a horror thrill-ride, but ends up providing an empty plate as its food for thought and is as dead-on-arrival as its characters.
Words: Ashley Norris (@ashleyrhys)