Your favorite Niche movie reviewer John Leavengood is back with a thorough examination of the of the film After Life. My girlfriend Megan and I came across this movie at Redbox. We both Like Neeson and Justin Long and we decided to have a date night involving painting, wine and a scary movie. You can imagine our surprise as this movie turned out to be nothing more than Christina Ricci in lingerie and in the buff. I came up with theory that the director grew up with a crush on Ricci and wrote a movie specifically for her. The plot is muddled and kinda slow but must have been surprisingly easy to pitch.
After Life: By John Leavengood
So I stumbled across this movie which features Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Justin Long, all of whom have produced quality theatrical entertainment. So why on earth have I never heard of this movie until Amazon and Netflix were offering their recommendations? This feels like a red flag. I watched anyway…
The film opens with Neeson—playing a funeral director gifted with communicative abilities with the dead in order to usher them comfortably into accepting their passing—speaking soothingly to a body whose face was apparently prepared to appear such that he just got kicked in the nuts, then died and froze in place expression and all. The tone, however, seems serious. Next scene: Cut to Ricci’s nipple and I think the movie may already be worth it. At 2 minutes and 30 seconds we have a nuts-kicked-in-goofy-looking corpse and Ricci nips! I think that earned the first star of its rating.
The movie progresses and I notice something. I know there are scream queens, but are there type-cast non-Bruce Campbell kings as well. We soon see that Justin Long intends to marry Ricci’s character, who is immediately revealed as distracted and damaged. Hmmm, does this remind anyone of a certain Alison Lohman character? It’s Drag Me to Hell all over again. If this keeps up, horror screenwriters are going to run out of actresses short enough to play opposite Long! I say this because I assume Ricci, like the previous Long-widowing Lohman, is going to die in this movie. Bah, no spoiler really. Ricci dies REALLY early in the movie. You would have read that in a synopsis online.
The pace of the movie is a bit slow, but not uninteresting, in the first half. It feels more like a book being portrayed as a movie. But books come with some intriguing fact-fare. For example, did you know that you can dream while in purgatory? Evidently so. Purgatory also seems very stressful. Ricci goes through phases where she is in denial, psychologically abusive, bargaining, depressed, a bit road-rage-y, larsonous…a bit of everything really. You can apparently go through a lot while in the afterlife interim.
Wake up call! Ricci’s breasts make an encore appearance a bit later to snap you out of the this-is-slow-but-interesting pace at about the halfway point. By this time, she has spent much of the first half of the movie in some nice red lingerie. Thanks wardrobe team!
The movie then shifts from why-am-I-here to a hostage-escape style flick to an acceptance-with-death phase. Then a series of scenes which are, again, naked-Ricci rich! Oh, wait, her wardrobe has now become no clothes at all. This “outfit” persists through the remainder of the movie. Thanks again team wardrobe for this budget malfunction. You just earned the movie its second star.
Is Ricci dead? Is she alive? This is the mystery of the movie. The ending will generate two camps among the audience. Arguments over scenes depicting artistic license from Ricci’s perspective versus that which is actually occurring in the movie fuel the confusion. I highly recommend this movie. Decide for yourself if Neeson is gifted, or just twisted.
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NOW THAT YOU’VE SEEN IT…
Assuming Ricci was dead, I have a few questions about Neeson’s “gift”. Does he have rules to follow? Can he abuse this gift and have an affair with the recently-deceased cuties like Ricci? Can he keep them in this purgatory indefinitely? Ricci was able to trash his lab, steal his keys, and almost escape. Could she have seduced him? Killed him and wandered, or haunted, the area? There are a lot of possibilities here. If she tried to escape I feel that she’d have quite an advantage. I mean, she has no pulse yet magically generates energy to move her body about, pick up objects, break things, etc. She’d never get tired during a foot race. Ricci even manages to make a phone call to Long and he HEARD her! Seems to me this “gift” of Neeson’s is one hell of a liability—well, he did call it a curse later on. Is this the first time that some deadite wasn’t ready to call it quits? Get this chick to a blog and a video camera and the Ghost Hunters will have way more street cred. Neeson is missing out on a fortune!!! I mean, if some random kid can see her through a window, can’t anyone? Okay maybe the kid also has the gift.
Ricci’s capabilities as a “dead person” and Neeson’s need to pursue her attempted escapes serially lead me to suspect that Neeson is actually a serial killer utilizing heart-rate-slowing drugs acknowledged in one of the precinct scenes. Also noting the open-eyed bodies in some of his photos I wonder if they weren’t alive and slowly deteriorating from starvation…like Ricci? Why weren’t all of the photos open-eyed? Well, the guy has to have some legit business, right? But if he is a murderer, then he’s also stupid. He gave Ricci way too many opportunities. Then again, that could be a part of his mania. Some things obviously cue us that she is alive, but artistic license is a good tool for the director to deceive the audience. 1) Neeson’s injections to “relax her muscles” seem needless if she was dead. 2) Fogging up the mirror with her breath would seem impossible if she wasn’t breathing, and even if she was, her breath would not be warm if she was dead. 3) This one I’m not so sure about. But when she was clawing at the coffin…did that really happen? If it did, then we’ve cracked the case! But because it was all a part of the getting-Justin-to-get-himself-killed hysteria-plan, maybe it was a misleading device; a part of Long’s dream leading up to her rescue. But wait again, if Neeson wanted to provoke him to drive drunk, then he likely is the proposed nut case and is seeking his next client. Hold on again! Is some EMT dosing the would-be survivors. There’s just too much dirt here for Devil’s advocacy.
Oh, and was Jack (the little boy) a ghost? No. Did they set him up as one? I thought so. He had a mother who appeared as a shell of her former self, perhaps bereft, and who does not respond to her son’s words or pick him up from school. I also thought he was in one of the photos of Neeson’s past deadite clients. I guess not.
MY CALL: B/B+. No, not because of the nudity. Jerk!
WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD: Nothing. In NO movie do you see her breasts so much.
IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH: Most movies of similar theme would be spoiled if I told tell you that they’re similar. Sorry.
DRINKING MOVIE STATUS: It would just be frustrating because of the pace of the movie. But it would make the T’n’A fest more fun.