No stranger to goth turns in movies ever since her early days as offspring Wednesday of the necrophilia leaning small screen sitcom clan The Addams Family, Christina Ricci may be said to have perfected pre-mortem freaky, long before her latest film, After.Life. Which is to say, her performance could be more than described as haunting.
Directed and co-written by first time feature filmmaker Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, After.Life seems to delve into everything you may or may not have wanted to know about what exactly takes place in your local funeral home’s underground mortuary, while preparing the recently deceased for burial. In other words, this movie may not exactly be your cup of embalming fluid, in terms of either intriguing audiences with unconventional viewing preferences, or seriously creeping them out.
Christina Ricci, following her release from a difference sort of captivity tied to a radiator in Black Snake Moan, is Anna in After.Life. She’s a temperamental small town schoolteacher involved in a fading relationship with long time boyfriend Paul (Justin Long). Prior to her sudden death in a car crash, Anna experiences a few morbidly prophetic fatal hints of what is to eventually transpire, including nosebleeds in the shower and an impulse to dye her hair bright red, a frightening hue which spills over into the beauty salon sink like blood pouring from her head.
When Anna’s freshly departed corpse arrives at the funeral home of weirdly meticulous mortician Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), she still seems very much alive and argues with him to release her from mortuary captivity. But Deacon, who habitually switches into comfy clogs as prepping routine, and whose bedroom walls are covered with snapshots of all his affectionately prepared postmortem customers, assures Anna that she’s quite dead and simply into the usual cadaver denial, while waving around her death certificate as corroboration.
Not your typical horror movie, After.Life is an artsy subtle shocker that is more into kooky character depth than carnage. And with a menacing meeting of macabre minds, as saucer eyed, sassy Ricci’s hottie in cold storage flits seductively around the funeral home clad only in a red satin slip, when not totally nude. And attempting escapes on the sly from the robotic, methodical and occasionally short-tempered control freak Deacon, by dialing up her boyfriend in a retro mortuary apparently without touchtone.
Rarely has a screen relationship conjured such subdued spine tingling revulsion, pitting Anna’s funeral parlor undead anger management issues against an attentive grossout mortician who provides service with a leering smile, while cheerfully delivering the slogan ‘it’s my pleasure,’ and really meaning it. And while also doing time as a kind of purgatory bartender, the reluctant recipient of tardy tales of lifetime regrets and second thoughts. In any case, After.Life should serve as an effective deterrent, to anyone contemplating suicide any time soon in the audience.
Anchor Bay Films