Take a little of the small town spook of Stephen King, a splash of dark scare of Clive Barker and a dose of the magic and wonder of Amblin era Steven Spielberg and you may have a general idea of what to expect from Toronto After Dark’s presentation of After.
Ana (Karolina Wydra) and Freddy (Steven Strait) are on the way back to their hometown of Pearl, two strangers who meet on a bus.
But an accident strikes and the next thing they know is that they wake up in their respective beds and quickly find that not only is the town deserted, but the entire town is encircled by a closing wall of cloud and a dark storm beyond.
Through memories that bring the town back to life around them we learn that the two of them have been brushing up against one another for their entire lives.
But the memories that they are reliving and the darkness of the clouds around them, as well as what it contains all hold the key to what is going on, and how to get out.
Now while the film may not have the emotional resonance of some of Spielberg’s work there is a magic to it that makes it worth embracing as our two characters work together, helping one another survive.
The reveal of what is actually going on is revealed fairly early on, which is nice. It then allows us to wonder about all the other things we are seeing, the chained monster, the massive door with the floor covered in keys, the all-encompassing darkness of the storm and the gold-hued memories that tie Freddy, a comic book artist, and Ana, a nurse, so inextricably together.
The creature and visual effects work brilliantly within the context of the film, as does the lighting, as the storm grows closer everything gets darker but for the revisited memories which are always given a nostalgic gold hue.
Smith has crafted a blanket to wrap yourself up in and share with others. It shows how the events, people and things in our lives create not only us, but the delicate and dreamlike balance of hope, fear, love and redemption that is life.
After is a magic film that was a welcome addition to the Toronto After Dark line up, I feel kind of terrible, because none of them have let me down yet, though I did feel Universal Soldier, but for the action sequences was a bit of a disappointment.