Death (2012)

Manipulation. I guess everyone manipulates something to differing degrees, whether its exaggerating man-flu to gain a few days off work, or cajoling your mate to buy the first pint as you “don’t have any money”. It’s an everyday human trait for which DVD companies are no different. They know what sells, and they know what attracts the eye as us laymen (and women) scour the shelves of the DVD rental store for some scary entertainment. The sleeve for Death is prime example with a hooded skeleton figure staring at you above a quote from Ain’t it Cool that states “Death movie of the year!” and a tagline reading “the collector of souls”. They have you in the palm of their hand.

Stifle that impulse buy though dear reader, for this cynical sonuvabitch has done some digging and lo and behold the actual quote from AICN reads “the feel-good movie about death of the year!”. So it’s a feel-good movie – ok, so let’s check out the website. Scrolling down the homepage we can see a poster for the movie which features the two leads lying on the grass, heads touching which resembles Richard Curtis more than Dan Curtis. With said poster adorned with “Dr. Who meets Mike Leigh”(Raindance), and an alternate tag-line of “a beautifully British mysterious sci-fi comedy” I think we may have been fooled!

It’s not the filmmakers fault, they just needed their movie distributing. I remember speaking to an unnamed director of an excellent low budget horror last year and he hold me how disappointed he was about the artwork they used as well as the lack of proof reading on the box. As it happens it’s the same distributor Three Wolves who have once again taken someone’s labour of love and targeted at a group of people that most likely won’t care for it all that much. At any rate, rant over and whether it qualifies for the pages of UKHS or not, it’s only fair to give it an unbiased review.

Eloise (Watson Parr) has just received some terrible news, a phone call from her Uncle Simon (Linal Haft) informs her of the death of her last surviving parent, her father. After years apart this gives the opportunity for the family (two brothers and two sisters) to reunite at the palatial family home. It’s a fascinating assembly of people from TV personality Yossarian (Shockley) “I don’t watch daytime TV… I’m on it” *winks*, to the older sister Suki (Goodchild) who finds it hard to conceal her resentment towards him. We swiftly discover from a raft of press clippings that their father James was a notable scientist. Eloise wants to get into his lab to survey the scene, but it’s locked and the absence of a key is notable.

It’s not long before the strained relationships between the siblings come to the fore as they argue about their reasons for leaving seven years ago. It turns out their deceased father accidentally caused the death of their brother Tom. Before they can decide what to do with the property though they have a visit from their father’s solicitor who tells them that their father had defaulted on several loans, and that the property is about to be demolished. Needless to say this news only exacerbates the tensions in the house, and adding to that is Yoassarian who swears that he has just seen Tom. Everyone obviously dismisses this, but what was their father working on up until he died?

Schizophrenic may be the best way to describe After Death as it veers from kitchen sink melodrama to comedy to afterlife themed sci-fi. It’s quite a heady combination that at times leaves the viewer a little bit disorientated as to where it actually wants to go. Added to this is a Leslie Phillips cameo and heavily Roger Taylor orientated soundtrack – it really is a staggering blend. Surprisingly though, most of the time it actually does work and with a genuinely intriguing backbone of a storyline, it does keep you entertained.

That said, there are a few stilted performances in the movie but credit must go to Claira Watson Parr who carries much of the film in her brilliant mascara clad role of Eloise. After Death is far from perfect, but it would be a hard-nosed individual that would dwell upon its failings. After watching it though, I again come back to it being completely misrepresented in its packaging. This barmy decision will lead the film to miss out on finding an audience that will really appreciate it – and there is an audience there. Instead, it will be picked up by horror fans via supermarket impulse purchases and be in the main totally rejected. It’s a shame as I’d like to see it succeed, but alas in this guise it’s likely to fail

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