Watch this first.
I saw After Last Season at the Cinemark Tinseltown in North Aurora, Illinois (one of only four theaters screening this odd little duck). The venue, replete with labyrinthine hallways and gaudy décor, unnerved me like a demented cartoon misremembered from my youth, and in many ways this film achieved the same end: I figure years from now, after it’s had the chance to achieve cult status, I’ll think back on After Last Season, and I’ll do so with a bitter taste in my mouth.
The film, written, directed, produced and shot by Mark Region and starring a cast of unknowns, concerns the strange goings-on at a medical center and the surrounding town. The plot involves a ghost and a string of murders, and that’s about all I’ll say, because there isn’t much actually happening here.
When my friends and I first saw the somewhat (emphasis on “somewhat”) buzzed-about trailer for this film a few months ago, we thought it had to be a joke. Surely the actual film couldn’t be so tedious, so technically poor. Well, it is. I walked away from it feeling the filmmakers must have purposefully called attention to the ridiculously shoddy set design, laughable special effects, and amateur performances (watch especially for Tristan Cole as Eric Nelson, villain of the year, if not this whole damn century). It’s as if Region’s deliberately spotlighting his shoestring budget.
However, this stylistic decision, if that is indeed what it is, does After Last Season no favors. It’s simply not that interesting. The characters often hold long discussions regarding things with little bearing on the film as a whole, which ideally wouldn’t seem so bad (after all, people take part in mundane conversations all the time, and often enough this makes for surprisingly engaging cinema), but here these hyper-dull exchanges occur so frequently that after a while they just sound like white noise.
Perhaps worse are the animated sequences. These are supposed to illustrate Sarah Austin’s (Peggy McClellan) thoughts, and Region spends a lot of time showing them off. I’m not sure if Region saw some artistic merit in these outdated renderings, but most of the time I just felt like I was watching a screensaver. But still worse is the “twist” that occurs immediately after all the awful animation. I won’t give any details about said “twist” (and the quotes are a must in referring to it), but when it happened I thought, “I sat through that for this?”
I don’t know what to expect from this film in the future. Maybe it’ll find a wider audience, and if it does, maybe it’ll become another cult film known for its badness, like Troll 2 or The Room. I have a sneaking suspicion this is what Region set out to create in the first place. Maybe someday select theaters will host midnight screenings of this film, and the seats will be filled with fans shouting, “They’ve got, uh, printers in the basement you can use.”