‘If you see God, tell him to go fuck himself.’
Most limbo-set movies try to be mystifying for much of the running time before springing the – gasp! – surprise that the characters are dead, but AfterDeath satisfyingly gets the revelation out of the way at once and concentrates instead on an intriguing set of post-mortem mysteries as a small group of recently-deceased folks try to work out the rules of their afterlife and face what happens next. Robyn (Miranda Raison) wakes up on a drab beach after dying when an overcrowded nightclub collapses and is drawn to a house that looks like the one in which she spent her childhood holidays, where she finds jack-the-lad Seb (Sam Keeley) having a three-way with just-dead clubbers Patricia (Elarica Gallacher, from last year’s The Forgotten) and Livvy (Lorna Nickson Brown). Also lingering nearby is Onie (Daniella Kertesz) who has the disorienting habit of phmmphhing in and out of the place – perhaps because she is hovering between life and death. When Robyn tries to take charge, surly Seb diagnoses that she must be ‘in management’ but the others more or less fall in with her efforts to explore this limited patch of space, where they are periodically tormented by painful beams from a lighthouse, only to realise that the bubble of this pocket universe is contracting and that any attempt to leave only results in being zapped back on the other side of the bubble (‘like PacMan’). Andrew Ellard’ script interestingly explains the high standard of appearance among the cast in that these phantoms are idealised versions of the people they were when alive – the libidinous Patricia turns out to have been a chubby Christian on Earth – while coming up with a fresh, surprisingly radical vision of the merciless rules of judgement whereby it turns out that since the beginning of mankind nobody has been adjudged sin-free enough to get into Heaven, but if one does make it through the whole system will be reset. Seb is hauled over the coals when Robyn remembers he was once accused of rape, and the four women laugh at him when he is violated by a smoke demon … and there are secrets and mysteries (not all solved) for each character, including a sub-plot about what exactly happened at the crowded club to land these people here in a house where each room is plucked from an inmate’s memory with a few significant additions life a painting of the suffering damned replacing a Predator poster and a pin-up from Seb’s student flat. Co-directors Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt manage a balance between ensemble drama – everyone here is good, with Gallacher and Keeley standouts – and ominous, creepily-surreal use of an archetypal desolate beach as a shore of the afterlife. This year’s FrightFest selection features several limbo movies (The Shelter, III), of which this is by far the most impressive.