Saturday, October 13, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: After.Life

2009, Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo -- download

This movie had been on my mind since Ebert reviewed it way back.  I liked how he reviewed it with the question of Anna's life of death status being truly mystifying.  You see, this is a movie where an undertaker has a special relationship with the dead.  He chats with them and consoles them as he lays them to rest. But when we see Anna (Christina Ricci) on his slab, all pale and goth-corpse like as I imagine Ricci naturally is, she argues with him, trying to convince Deacon (Liam Neeson) that she is alive.  At first, he is understanding explaining to her that, like all the dead, she is confused but will come to accept her death, later.  But as she tries and tries to convince him, he becomes agitated.  The dead are always whining, always complaining, always trying to bargain with him for one more day.  Too bad they were not that interested when they were alive, he counters.

Horor movies with a "is it happening or is it not" premise are usually easy to figure out.  There is normally one key plot piece that, should we catch it, lays out the "it is not" thread for us to see.  I have always caught those early on but normally play along, questioning myself until the reveal.  In this movie, I was completely unsure of myself through its entirety.  There was plenty of evidence that Anna is in fact alive, a captive to a psycho who buries people alive.  But there was also that straight forward acceptance of her being dead, that all the supporting cast went along with.  Is it so easy to convince the world that someone is past away?  As the movie passes, we might actually becomes as convinced of her death as Anna was, but with a little light of possible escape.

I wonder what is going on with this Polish director? After her short Pâté did well at SunDance and a few other festivals, Hollywood obviously sought her out for this flick.  This is the opposite of what I have been complaining about lately, where Hollywood grabs a notable foreign director and attaches them to a vehicle of Hollywood's making, not one of their own.  This Wojtowicz-Vosloo's own script so I assume she had much control on the set.  This is what Hollywood should always do -- draw the next crop of directors from the entire world.  Unfortunately, it was not much of a box office or critical success and she has been quiet, if the Internet says anything, since.  Too bad, for this was a nice little movie that kept my jaded self guessing.