After.Life review

After.Life blurs the lines between life and death, and between that divide keeps you guessing throughout, begging the question: life or death? No, it's not formulaic nor is it the kind of horror with a twist that you work out in the middle of the first act. Does it even have a twist? Enquire within.

A thoroughly enjoyable horror directed by a woman and co-written with her husband, After.Life is a film that can go two ways in the story its telling, but will have you leaning to each of those sides more than once. While there are many twists and turns leading up to its climax, it's how you personally perceive the direction of the film that will affect how you react to its conclusion.

When the beautiful school teacher Anna (Ricci) is involved in a horrific car crash, she wakes up to find herself spread out on a mortician's table with funeral director Eliot Deacon (Neeson) standing over her. Does she actually wake up? You'll find yourself asking many a question during the movie, but never because its illogical, but because it's so damned intriguing. Now if you thought Anna's state as a conscious corpse was strange, Deacon has what he calls a gift – the ability to talk to the dead while he prepares them for burial. Meanwhile, Anna's lawyer boyfriend (Long) struggles to cope with her passing, believing that she's still very much alive thanks to the words of a young boy who swears he saw her standing in the window of the mortician's house. Is she dead or alive? Or is she the living dead? You honestly cannot predict the story as it swings your beliefs from left to right. It's an intelligently written psychological thriller that blends horror with the mystery of whether or not there is actually any supernaturality to it.

The three main cast members each give superb performances. It's a brave role for Ricci, who spends most of the film white as a ghost and completely naked. Neeson is perfectly cast as the soft-spoken funeral director, and Long shows that he's really come into his own and matured immensely as an actor, breaking free from his geek typecasting with stellar roles such as in this and Sam Raimi's brilliant Drag Me to Hell in 2009. It's a film where the cast most likely (and I hope) did it for the script rather than the money – which is refreshing – as it's a low-budget independent film, though you wouldn't really guess that from watching as the production values are very high indeed, and it's nicely shot. After.Life is a real cracker that really holds your attention and keeps you in the palm of its deathly-white hand until the credits roll.

Official Site
After.Life at IMDb

After.Life screens at the Film4 FrightFest. Check out our full coverage of the festival

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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