AfterDeath (or possibly After Death) is a very strange film that many people probably wouldn't class as horror. Personally I found it terrifying.
The story starts with Robyn (Miranda Raison) being washed up on a deserted beach. It's no spoiler to say that she's dead - that's made abundantly clear within the first few minutes. This isn't one of those stories where "They're all really dead" is presented as a clever twist!
Leaving the beach Robyn heads for the one small building she can see. This has the rather unsubtle sign 'Tabula Rasa' outside. Inside she stumbles on Seb (the always impressive Sam Keeley), Patricia (Elarica Johnson) and Livvy (Lorna Nickson Brown) enjoying a threesome. The other inhabitant and only other cast member is Onie (Daniella Kertesz) who has a tendency to vanish suddenly! All are as dead as Robyn and they all know it.
The religious symbolism is not exactly subtle with a light so bright it hurts and a black cloud attracted to sin. So are they in heaven, hell or some form of purgatory? And what will happen to them next?
This is very much a character film and we quickly learn much about the five of them from their various reactions to the situation they're in. Seb, Pat and Livvy have decided just to live (?) for the moment, Onie tries to escape by attempting suicide. Robyn immediately takes charge, starts trying to analyse the situation and refuses to accept that there is no way out.
As part of working out what's going on they get drunk and start telling each other their "sins". These vary from the trivial to the significant and this marks a turning point in the film. Things were already bleak but now they get really dark. There's also some excellent character development and some unexpected revelations (pun intended) in Ellard's intelligent script.
I was worried that the religious aspect might get preachy. In fact the opposite is true. Whilst the film's premise is clearly based on the Christian mythology its theology won't please the Bible bashers; it'll probably scare them even more than it scares an atheist like me! The final line of dialogue is simply perfect.
Acting is good and although it's dominated by Raison and Keeley the others do a great support job with their developing character back-stories. Direction is classy but perhaps tries a little too hard; some of the visuals border on the pretentious in an attempt to create 'strangeness', but it works. And I was so into the story I hardly noticed the shaky camera.
So AfterDeath isn't your usual horror film, it's a sophisticated and thought-provoking piece which addresses some deep issues. It starts slowly and small scale but builds into something wholly unexpected and far bigger. And more frightening than a dozen serial killers.