After... (2006)

A grimly surrealist horror, filmed in an effective and very modern hand-held style. Optimum R2 UK - released March 16th 2009.

The Film

Addy, Nate and Jay are American urban explorers, delving into hidden and off-limits areas of cities, simply because they can. They are on a trip to Moscow to explore the underground passageways and the legendary rumours of Stalin's Metro-2 and Ivan the Terrible's torture chambers. With some help from local explorers, they get maps and guides and head into the systems, finding a maze of underground passages and chambers, but stumble upon something they shouldn't have and find themselves fleeing from mysterious armed men - but Nate sees more than this and begins to have disturbing visions that seem to relate to a tragic event from a few years previously...

Written and directed by David L. Cunningham, After... is a short (75 minutes) but breathless ride. Set in the world of the 'Urban Explorer' which an opening text scroll informs us is the latest "underground" craze, the film gets off to a very quick start with the characters taking part in a BASE jump (illegally parachuting off a tall building) and this rapid pacing does not stop for the first part of the film, getting the characters to Moscow and into the underground world within the first 15 minutes. This means that there is no unnecessary padding but also no characterisation during the early stages - what there is, comes later and although minimal is enough to keep the film interesting and leads to a surprisingly deep climax.

Once the characters get into the underground, the film starts to get surreal and confusing and does not give up until the dizzying climax. The surrealism seems to exist on two different levels, the events happening to all of the characters and the disturbing visions of Nate, but these are continually being mixed up and confused, with several jumps in time to really baffle matters. The horror elements are not the jump shocks or endless gore of many modern horror films, instead the film manages to build up a wonderfully creepy atmosphere in the underground scenes and becomes genuinely scary during Nate's bizarre visions. The Moscow setting is a particular help in building up the creepy undertone; it is an alien environment where signs and announcements that could be vital, mean nothing to the characters and nowhere is there the safety that one might expect to find in an American city for example. Most cult film fans will probably not have any trouble working out the reason behind everything, but the script seems aware of this does not try and make it into a big twist - although there is a scene that neatly and subtly explains everything for anyone who has not caught up.

Much of the film is shot in a hand-held style, using the explorer's "body cameras" (we see that they plan to upload this footage to their website) which provide a very immediate view of the proceedings, this is combined with some standard camera angles. There is no particular rhyme or reason for the switches between hand-held and external shots and the use of the hand-held cameras in scenes outside of the underground - it is even used on the plane flight - does become a little nausiating after a while. For some viewers it might prove ultimately too distracting, but for those with a strong stomach it does give the film a unique edge and the combination of the realistic Youtube style footage with the surrealistic horror is particularly effective. Partly shot on real locations in Moscow, with some very convincing sets (bathed in Italian horror style green lighting), the film looks great throughout. The soundtrack is provided by electronic group The Crystal Method and is particularly fitting for the tone of the film - fortunately it is used sparingly and never drowns out the action.

The three lead characters are pretty much the only speaking parts in the whole film and although none of the actors are particularly well known, all of them give very good performances and as the film progresses, become realistically dirty, scared and tired.

After... is certainly not to all tastes - it will certainly not appeal to those with a low tolerance for hand-held camerawork, nor to those looking for a straight forward narrative storyline. However for fans of surrealist horror and cult modern horror films, this should appeal - despite the rather predictable explanation, it provides genuine scares and terror and some very daring direction and solid acting.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one of note.
Directed by anyone interesting? David L. Cunningham - usually a documentary director, he made the controversial television mini-series The Path to 9/11 (2006)
Any gore or violence ? Several scenes of blood but no explicit gore
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Fans of surrealist horror should enjoy this

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print looks exactly as the director intended - picture quality varies because of the combination of HD-video and digital body-cams used. The latter have an intentionally low resolution look.
Audio English 5.1 surround and 2.0 stero downmix. Sound very good with the music well balanced.
Subtitles A couple of scenes have burnt-in English subtitles in a Russian style font.
Extras The disc includs:
  • Original theatrical trailer.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Released on an indentical DVD in the US.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 3rd March.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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