Friday, 16 September 2011



Less than two weeks after they sent me the tiresome Moscow Zero, in which a bunch of idiots bumble aimlessly around in the dark somewhere under Moscow, they now send me this piss-poor excuse for an apology for a turd of a so-called horror movie, in which three idiots bumble aimlessly around in the dark somewhere under Moscow, but badly told, incompetently shot and without even the frankly variable talents of Vincent Gallo and Val Kilmer to try (and fail) to prop it up and turn it into something approaching a basic level of professionalism.

In After..., Nate, Addy and Jay are urban explorers: thrill-seekers breaking into the world's most dangerous man-made structures (abandoned factories, power stations, bunkers etc) and base jumping off the roof, then uploading their shouldercam footage to the internet. Their next adventure is a quest for Stalin's secret metro system and Ivan The Terrible's torture dungeons, located somewhere under Moscow and handily just down the track from the city's equivalent of the Northern Line. But it's not long before things go wrong. Nate starts seeing things: the body of his and Addy's missing/dead daughter (like many things, it's not made clear) being buried by a literally faceless man, one of the child's drawings in a pile of newspapers. And then there's radiation, jeeps full of soldiers massacring homeless people, and everyone's put on a train which doesn't appear to be stopping anywhere - and Jay and Addy suddenly fritz out of existence in bursts of static. What's going on?

The Big Twist - that Nate is actually dead and his past and alternate life choices are just playing out in his subconscious in the split second before his death - is not only Jacob's Ladder all over again (amongst others) but illogical in that it's predicting the detail of a trip to Moscow he died before taking. Fine - you can prove any amount of plot chasms with enough waffle about near death experiences. What absolutely isn't fine, though, is the style of the piece - it's hyper-edited so every shot lasts a maximum of about 0.75 of a second, every shot is either hand-held or shoulder-mounted (so extremely wobbly), and pretty much every shot is suffused in red or green light that suggests nothing more than David L Cunningham watched Suspiria a couple of times and thought "I can do that". Well, surprise surprise: he can't.

With that, and a penchant for shooting closeups through a fish eye lens that gives everyone a nose the size of the Horn Of Africa, the inevitable response is the same kind of queasy feeling that goes with the words "shouldn't have had the fish". And that's watching it on a 37" home screen. Project this at even a medium sized Cineworld and you'll be knee deep in bile and semi-digested fries by the end of the second reel. Put it on at the Odeon Leicester Square or Waterloo IMAX and the resultant projectile vomiting will be violent enough to affect the Earth's orbit.

Really: how the hell did this get picked up for release? This is from Optimum: a proper distribution company (now Studio Canal), putting out proper A-list films to nationwide cinemas as well as digging out interesting and unusual movies from the world's vaults. Not some backstreet Del Trotter outfit slinging out any old crap they can get their hands on. Why did no-one say something along the lines of "I'm sorry, Mr Cunningham, but your film simply isn't good enough to be distributed in the UK. You clearly haven't the first idea how to direct and you really need to sit down and watch a shedload of movies to figure out how they're actually put together." Why, in short, didn't someone stop it?

Instead, probably out of pity, they've bought the rights to his genuinely nauseous little "film", which promptly gets released to the British public like a botulism outbreak, and David L Cunningham, who has the shameless and barefaced gall to take a co-writing and directing credit on this worthless and insulting waste of time and shelf space, gets a proper director job on a proper film with proper actors (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, which has people like Christopher Eccleston, Ian McShane and Wendy Crewson in it). Truly there ain't no justice. It's not merely that everyone should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, it's that they should be rounded up and beaten with sticks until they swear, and sign in blood, never to go near a camera again.

It's got the production values of gonzo gangbang pornography, and to even put your name to amateur-night incompetence of this nature suggests a monstrous ego or that you simply don't give a damn about your audience. This really is unbearable and just because genre fans can be quite tolerant when it comes to dodgy acting and directing doesn't mean we'll watch any fetid sludge you throw at us. Paying customers have a right to a basic level of professional competence if nothing else, and we are monumentally short-changed here.


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