AfterDeath (2015)

AfterDeath first published by Little White Lies

Like After Life (1998) or Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006), Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt’s directorial debut AfterDeath makes no bones about the fact that it is set is a limbo between life and whatever comes next, as five of the recently departed find themselves washed ashore on a heath (in fact Happisburgh, Norfolk) whose only features are an isolated cottage and an inaccessible lighthouse that occasionally casts a cripplingly painful light.

The cottage, a composite of different places from each of their remembered lives, decorated with some creepy artwork and “a mirror that lies”, is all at once purgatorial waiting station and trap, as a snowglobe-like membrane surrounding the area slowly closes in, and a demonic creature strives to take possession of them one by one. The five must work out what sins they have committed and how to expiate them, or face an eternal hell far worse than their current one.

Casting its everyday characters adrift in a bubble of ethical and eschatological conundrums, AfterDeath plays like a chamberpiece of odd ideas and even odder effects. It tempers the soap opera of these folk’s past lives with a truly iconoclastic solution to their core problem, and ends, ambiguously, on a note of Sartrean paradox. For in this house, while hell both is and is not other people, secularism finds a way to tackle theology on its own terms and to kill God once and for all – although who really knows what happens after the screen goes blank and the credits start rolling?

Anton Bitel