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Xavierpop Does @TADFilmFest – Louis Reviews ‘After’

After is a horror based psychological drama that never quite lives up to the potential of its premise. While trying to get home on a bus, Freddy (Steven Strait) and Ana (Karolina Wydra) strike up a conversation and discover they live very close to one another. At the sound of a crash, Ana wakes up in her own home, slightly confused, but dresses and goes to work. Once there, she realizes she is alone, not just in the hospital where she works, but in the entire city. That is, until she comes across Freddy and they begin to postulate and investigate why exactly the city is empty, what that black cloud is closing in on them from all sides, and what the true nature of their existence is. Discovering they can penetrate the cloud, they enter only to find a door, one keyhole and many keys, as well as a dark creature chained next to the door. These discoveries only deepen the mystery, though each finds clues within themselves and ultimately discover the truth.

This is a dark film. Dark, not as the themes are heavy and tough, but rather most of it is shot in the dark or near dark. The lighting isn’t as much of the problem as it appears to be well lit, just filtered to be less brilliant than it may have been. At times this makes it difficult to see what the director Ryan Smith wanted seen. Though at first I thought this may have been a problem with the projection booth of the theater, subsequent scenes took place in daylight and were quite bright and crisp. I found it distracting to strain to see what was unfolding, rather than concentrate on the story.

The story itself is quite interesting, though it has many twists to attempt to keep the viewer on their toes. Anticipating the viewer’s assumptions of what is occurring, the characters have conversations trying to explain and define their predicament. Although a good device to move the plot along, the conversations are also masked an attempt to review for the viewer plot elements already revealed. The CGI is actually well done, the cloud moving slowly is quite formidable and frightening. The scale and timing is a bit off though. Told early in the film of the complete surrounding of the city, the shift in time and the darkening of the skies should have had the cloud visible in every outside shot, yet this was not the case. It seemed to expand and contract as the pair moved to different places in the city.

The relationship between the two is somewhat disjointed, going from distrust and dislike, (and at some points open contempt), to a caring relationship. This was after a big reveal that would have made most characters hate one another. The acting is adequate, I suppose, though it is uneven and rough in some scenes as well. It’s tough to see or understand why these two would be attracted to one another romantically after such an experience. The characters, even though facts are shown about them, are really underdeveloped.

As for how and why they both found themselves trapped inside the city, with the ever closing black cloud, it’s never really answered. How to get out, yes, but why did they get sent, by whom, and really, to what purpose is skipped in favor or the relationship between the two. In the end, the film failed to answer such a fundamental aspect of the story.

Overall, the film had really good potential to be an interesting study of the human psyche, what impact our choices have and what lies we tell ourselves. Through inconsistencies of direction, character development and storyline, it instead becomes more of a muddled mess than it should have been.