After.Life wasn't well thought out beyond the halfway mark.

Afterlife (that's right, I've abandoned the nonsense clever title spelling immediately) is a story about a dying woman (Christina Ricci) who gets into a car accident and winds up lying on a slab in Liam Neeson's mortuary. Liam patiently explains that he has the special ability to be able to see and communicate with people's souls after they're dead, and over the next three days between her 'waking up' and her funeral, he's going to make her look presentable while also easing her transition into the next life.

Perfectly good premise for a slow-paced, likely pretentious meditation of the grieving process and letting go, right? Well, it would be, except for the twist, which I'll get to after the jump, to protect people who may want to see the - just kidding! Liam's a serial killer who gets off on convincing people that he has magic powers so that they'll voluntarily allow themselves to be buried alive - after which Liam retires to his tiny bedroom and has a good chuckle to himself about the whole thing.

Honestly, this was my first assumption when Christina woke up in the mortuary - that he'd abducted her from the accident or ambulance somehow, and this was all going to be a mind game. Then the film started cutting away to the rest of the world, where Christina's family and friends try to cope with her sudden death.

Which brings us to the film's first giant, inescapable problem - how did Liam Neeson wind up with a living woman in his mortuary?

The film is maddeningly unclear on this point. They try to hand-wave the questions off by explaining that a doctor 'signed off on the death certificate without seeing the body' after the paramedics failed to find a pulse or get a pupil response for the body. Which is all well and good, but what about the autopsy?

Yes, the autopsy - you know, the one that's performed on every person who dies while not under a doctor's care? Christina 'died' in a car accident that she was responsible for - but how responsible was she? Was it drunk driving? A seizure or aneurysm? These are the kinds of things both the insurance companies and police are going to want to know, and they're the reason that people who die in car accidents are autopsied.

It's not like Christina's character is an Orthodox Jew or any other member of a religious group that prefers to not desecrate corpses after death - after all, she's in a normal funeral home, presumably being embalmed, as her as her family knows.

Also, how on Earth did the paramedics think she was dead?

The sum total of her injuries were a small wound on her side and a nasty gash on her forehead. While the forehead wound doubtless would have bled profusely, the cut didn't even go down to the bone. Between her utter lack of broken ribs and the fact that her neck and spine were totally uninjured, how on earth would the paramedics have thought for a second that this woman wouldn't have been treatable?

The odds of someone who's clinging to life being delivered into the arms of a serial killing mortician whose thing is convincing people that they're already dead so that he can play mind games with them are so long that they defy reason. Of course, movies are allowed one coincidence, so I guess we could give Liam this one if it weren't for a single detail revealed in the last third:

He's apparently done this 229 times before her. That's right, Christina is lucky number 230! While it's possible that the wall is meant to be every person he's ever put in the ground, it's clear that some of them are also his victims, because the movie plays an overlapping track of dozens of voices protesting that they're not actually dead - just the way Christina did when she first arrived.

These aren't people who are missing mysteriously - these are (at the absolute least) two dozen people who the public have written off as naturally dead, yet somehow wound up on Liam Neeson's embalming table and not the coroner's autopsy table. For this to work Liam would need a network of doctors and paramedics brining him fresh victims - but the film is very clear on the fact that he works alone.

Which brings me to the bigger question - how is Liam Neeson still alive?

In Christina he hit the jackpot for murder victims. A combination of relationship troubles, family disconnection, and the fact that she had some manner of slow wasting disease all put her in a position where she was ready and willing to be talked into accepting death.

Some of these victims - even most of them, in all likelihood - must have been more vital, self-assured people. The kind of people who weren't excited about the prospect of being buried alive. Even Christina menaced Liam with a knife when she thought she was a captive - how did none of his other victims go through with it and try to escape?

I know that the filmmakers must have thought that they had such a dynamite twist that they absolutely had to make the film, but this is clearly an example of the filmmakers' thought processes ending with the twist. Their inability to think through the ramifications of that twist render their film a poorly-written mess.

And that's without considering the end-of-film sting, which, in order to happen, required Liam to both be able to predict exactly how a person he doesn't know will react to a specific stimulus, and also be able to see the future.

So yeah, it's pretty much a waste all around.

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