Five young people wake up dead. Washed up by the tide they scramble to an abandoned beach house, soon realising that the perpetual night and blasts of pain suggest this is some version of hell. Between in-fighting and attacks by a demonic shadow creature, they recall the collapse of the nightclub that brought them here – and begin seeing hope of a second chance in the cabin’s two mysterious paintings…
Death is my greatest fear or, should I say, being dead is my greatest fear. The thought of there being nothing after we shuffle off this mortal coil can send me in almost panic should I ended up thinking about it too much. However, I have had great comfort from watching films about the afterlife; Hellraiser told me that my soul will be torn apart in a blizzard of chains and hooks while Flatliners informed me that my worst moments will be replayed back to me over and over again as some sort of penance for the crappy decisions that I’ve made. Joking apart, I’d take any of that over being stuck in a little cottage with only a bunch of dislikable idiots and some demonic smoke for company. May I present to you… Afterdeath.
Afterdeath, directed by Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt, places five women and a man in a cottage somewhere between the living and the dead. Robyn (Miranda Raison), the main protagonist of the film, joins the party of already well-acquainted twenty-somethings who as trying to make the best of a bad situation. Their revelry is punctuated by the agonising beam of a nearby lighthouse, which is the only other landmark in the barren world in which they now inhabit. The fun begins to wear off when the group start hypothesising on the situation and Seb (Sam Keeley) begins to show his true colours. Couple that with the aforementioned smoke and tensions rise to cyclopean levels as the group begin to consider who they can and can’t trust.
Films like Afterdeath tug at my patriotism and love of the underdog. This little known British movie looks slickly produced with its washed out, grey filters and reasonably competent cast of young actors and actresses. This does not look like a low budget affair. In fact, it feels like a inspired production which includes a few neat little touches, such as the name of the cottage, and the external shots remind me of an old film called Paperhouse. However, the cracks begin to show when you start following the storyline and script.
Frequently, horror films start subtly chilling their audience with a slow build-up and a creepy atmosphere but all the hard work goes down the drain when the main focus becomes the crappy CGI. Afterdeath is no different and, by the time the film was reaching its conclusion, my feelings were of amusement and annoyance. Our good friend, the smoke, throws this film out of the water and over a well-placed shark as something that was once enigmatic becomes a supernatural force that can, literally, be trapped in a picnic cooler and bullied into giving information about the situation. I found that to be a completely ridiculous decision by the writer of the film and one that completely destroyed any previously built-up atmosphere.
One other element that really mars the film is the lack of likeable characters. Patricia (Elarica Gallacher) comes across instantly as über bitch from the second that she appears on screen while Livvy (Lorna Nickson Brown) as a gormless girl who seems to says “Robyn” in a worried voice more times than I cared to count. As I already stated, Seb’s role changes as the film progresses but I think I started disliking him much sooner than I expect that the director wanted me to. The only person who is exempt from my previous statement is Onie (Daniella Kertesz), who changes in a much more positive manner during the course of the film and the one person who I felt some compassion for.
Maybe I’ve been a little harsh with Afterdeath but the sloppy handling of the second act really annoyed me because this is a film that wants to deliver a message. Unfortunately, that message gets tangled up in so much confusion that it was totally lost on me. The cinematic elements of the movie are fine and even the CGI is handled well at the beginning but, after that, everything that has been built up succumbs to silliness and convolution. The director has a lot of potential so I’m willing to give him a ‘tabula rasa’ with his next feature but I can’t really recommend Afterdeath.