Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Logic is one of fantastique cinema's greatest enemies, but for whatever reason that’s something that the majority of English language horror films can’t grasp. Take for example the visually striking and at times haunting After.Life, a film totally derailed by its tired attempt to explain away all of its built-in inconsistencies with a ‘logical’ conclusion. Hell, the DVD even has a featurette where director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo attempts to explain all the clues in the film to help her audience ‘understand’ what the film was about. Here are some suggestions for English Language Horror film directors…forget logic, embrace ambiguity, and forget attempting to explain everything and tying up all your loose ends. Let your film exist on its own deranged and haunted plateau and don’t let common sense come into play. Let us get lost in the supernatural world you have built up for us and don’t let us wake up from the nightmare until the end credits begin to role.
After.life is especially frustrating as it is, at times, so in line with classic Italian works like Joe D’Amato’s Buio Omega, Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Michele Soavi’s Cemetary Man (not to mention older English language works that got it right like Carnival of Souls), but it ultimately turns into just another bland modern horror film spoiled by a final act that attempts to erase all of the mystery the film has tried so hard to build up. The great thing about those works by D’Amato, Fulci and Soavi is that they understood that they didn’t have to ground their imaginative films with reason. Those films forcefully ask from the first frame on that we, as an audience, abandon common sense and welcome the fact that we finally only get more questions than answers.
Director Wojtowicz-Vosloo seems aware of these past works, and she has a keen visual sense, but After.Life implodes in on itself by wanting to pander to an audience that needs a film to make sense. Had she gone full-force with this work it could have been a truly disturbing and surreal experience but, instead, it’s a depressing wreck of a film only salvaged by several memorable moments and a beautiful performance by Christina Ricci, who has become one of our great actors even though her films are rarely as good as she is.
I wanted very much to like After.Life and it gets so many things right, (Ricci’s performance, the score, the fall setting), that I am tempted to give it another chance eventually but the film’s inability to come to terms with its natural illogical state frustrated the hell out of me. I really don’t have much else to say about the film. I almost wish it hadn’t had moments that were so captivating so I could dismiss it outright. In fact, had After.Life been half as mesmerizing and brilliant as Christina Ricci’s performance then it would have been one of the best films of the year. Sadly, that’s not the case and Ricci (and horror fans) deserve much, much better.