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After (review)

The writer-director really did a great job here

by Martin Hafer

From writer-director Ryan Smith, After is released on the Quite Quick Productions label. The film is quite unusual because it has very few actors who have speaking parts. Almost all the dialog (aside from a few flashback scenes) is spoken by just two characters, Freddy (Steven Strait) and Ana (Karolina Wydra).

After
Written & Directed by Ryan Smith
Cast Steven Strait, Karolina Wydra, Madison Lintz
Release Date May 2014
Martin's Grade: A

The film begins with Freddy and Ana striking up an awkward conversation on a bus.  Each is headed home from a trip and neither knows each other—though it turns out that they are neighbors.  Soon, unexpectedly, the bus has an accident.  When the pair awaken, they find that they are the only two people in their home town.  Eventually, after wandering about, they find two exceptionally strange things, including a fog-like darkness that's creeping closer and closer around the town. plus they occasionally see people who can't seem to see or hear them.  These people, it turns out, are from their memories -- family and friends from long ago -- some of whom are dead.  This is pretty awful but things get worse.  First, the pair hear a recorded conversation when they enter the hospital and it appears that these people they hear are planning on taking someone off life support—and that someone is Ana!!  Second, it only gets worse because there is a monster in the darkness—and soon it comes into the town looking for the pair!

I could say a lot about this plot but I really think you just need to see it for yourself. The story is taut and engaging, and really appealed to me even though I don’t normally like horror films.  The writer-director really did a great job here—and it really makes me want to see more work from Ryan Smith.  Additionally, while Steven Strait and Karolina Wydra don’t have a huge number of credits behind them, they are great in these leading roles.  They are really believable and likable—and I also would love to see more of their work in the future.

Oddly, while I really loved After, some story elements are similar to the god-awful film Soultaker (currently on IMDb’s list of 100 worst rated films in history).  I think it’s pretty fair to assume that Ryan Smith didn’t try to copy Soultaker—after all, who would want to?!  But there are some real similarities and it just goes to show you that great direction and acting can possibly take a seemingly bad idea and put it across.  And, wow, did they do a good job putting After across!  Well worth seeing and surprisingly strong where it counts—at the ending.

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