Film4 Frightfest the 13th – Day 5
#20 – After
The post-apocalypse is drearily brought to the screen by Ryan Smith in After, a sub-Silent Hill effort which lifts liberally from both the video game and film in a plethora of ways; the protagonists are in a vehicular accident, to awaken in a deserted town surrounded by a mysterious fog, where they eventually come to discover that the town has two sides – light and dark – and spend most of their time traipsing around hospitals and schools. So blatant is the pilfering that it’s amazing Smith got away with it, if not for the fact that the film will likely be relegated to bargain bin obscurity anyway.
A promising beginning – as Freddy (Steven Strait) tries to hit on Ana (Karolina Wydra) during their bus ride – unfortunately does not reflect the rest of the picture, and when the two awaken from their devastating bus crash, tension very quickly drains away, for Smith cannot find a unique or interesting direction in which to take his story. The dark mist in which various ravenous beasts live feels trite and derived from the likes of Stephen King’s The Mist and John Carpenter’s The Fog, while the rest derives from Konami’s aforementioned video game series.
Though an effort is made in act three to connect these two apparent strangers by examining time and memory – with exposition laid-on willy-nilly by the fog’s “powers” whenever it feels like it – Smith never gets us to care in the first place, and so the film’s big revelation has next to no emotional impact. Add to this some unintentionally guffaw-inducing dialogue – such as when Ana says to Freddy, “I’m sorry I tried to blow you off on the bus” – and you have a film that wants to mould itself into an affectionate, character-driven romance, but instead get one that materialises as insipidly dull. The actors try hard, but the mercilessly derivative, emotionally pat script stifles their efforts at every corner.