When two bus crash survivors awake to discover that they are the only people left in their town, they work together to unravel the truth behind the strange events.
It is always nice to see a film that successfully combines a variety of genres, and After does just that – with elements of sci-fi, horror and romance all featuring at some point or another. Indeed, I know that most films these days are ‘multi genre’, there are ones which work better than others. It is especially difficult mixing horror and romance together well, as these are the two genres most at odds, but After seems to have no problems with this. I guess After is a thriller at heart, and is very much a character driven piece, managing to remain gripping throughout despite only two characters being present for most of the screen-time.
Ana and Freddy are strangers on a bus, when, by sheer coincidence, they start talking and discover that they actually live on the same road. With a sound of a crash and screeching tyres, Ana suddenly wakes up in bed. She is confused to find that she is alone in the town – she goes to work but no one is there, she peers in everybody’s windows but still nothing. But later that night she discovers that there is in fact someone else around, Freddy from the bus. Relieved to have encountered each other, they are then both alarmed at the sight of a huge black fog closing in on the town, getting closer and closer with each passing second. What’s more is that there appears to be a horrific creature lurking in the fog that they should be wary of.
It is revealed quite early on that what has in fact happened to Ana and Freddy is that they are really in a coma, and all that is currently happening to them is just a psychological manifestation of their unconscious state. The incoming fog around their ‘world’ is the indication that their life support machine is going to be turned off in 3 days if the situation doesn’t improve. Armed with this knowledge, the two of them set about trying to help each other ‘wake up’ – which unfortunately means tackling the mysterious beast within the fog. This story is told with a couple of flashbacks, in what becomes a sort of story within a story type of situation. It is here that the more emotional side of the piece comes out, and the romance starts to be brought to the surface. I like the multiple layers to After, and despite the fact that I am not at all into the ‘romance’ genre, I think that it worked well to add a sense of drama and tension to what was happening. Despite being strangers to start off with, of course Ana and Freddy start to develop a strong bond, what with being the only two human beings in town and all.
Director Ryan Smith and main actors, Steven Strait and Karolina Wydra, must be praised for their work on After. Despite the fact that it is a relatively simple story, there are some quite complex aspects at play, which has been captured beautifully in the film. It is interesting to note that Ryan Smith actually claims that he’s not really a horror fan, aside from the more psychological ones such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. He is much more a sci-fi guy, and this definitely shows in his movie. As opposed to recent ‘torture P*rn’ horror, he has made some protagonists that an audience can actually care about, and who have been developed into real people. After is more about exploring and putting pieces of a jigsaw together than running away from a mad killer. Therefore, it doesn’t have quite the bloodthirsty, shock value of a traditional horror film, but is actually much more intense to watch.
All in all, After is an effective little film and I do recommend it to anyone who likes Silent Hill or even John Carpenter’s The Fog. Similarities could also be drawn to Stephen King’s The Mist, for obvious reasons. There is not so much horror present in After (apart from the battling the beast scenes) and is better described as an interesting thriller which puts forward some intriguing ideas to explore. The CGI, though not integral to the movie, is also very impressive given the budget of the piece. It’s a much more psychological as opposed to visceral experience, but is still a movie which you want to talk about afterwards.