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Miramax Pictures presents
"Who knew that murder smelled sweet?"
DVD ReviewIn the looks department, a film like After Image is certainly nice to eyeball. There is a creepy killer who has plenty of time to create an elaborate tableau for our hero to find by the final reel, and there are some neat dream/vision sequences about murder that feature a nude woman running or windows breaking in slow motion. All of this is meant to signify that a film like this is supposed to be a dark, gritty Fincher-esque thriller about a serial killer stalking a disheartened crime scene photographer.
Joe, the crime scene camera monkey, is no one other than aging rocker John Mellencamp, who one evening gets sick of photographing dead people, hurls his photos off a bridge and returns home to visit his ailing aunt (Louise Fletcher), who happens to have Laura (Terrylene), a deaf woman, as a personal assistant of sorts. Joe and Laura develop an awkward relationship filled with lots of sign language, and unknown to the two of them a baseball-hat wearing nutjob who sorts eggs for a living feels a personal attachment to the dark side of Joe's picture taking skills and works toward an inevitable confrontation, and to further complicate things Laura begins to exhibit the ability to have "visions" about murders.
That all might sound like the makings of a taut thriller, but for reasons never made clear director Robert Manganelli operates under the super slo-mo premise, doling out components that advance the story forward in brief moments spread out over 90 minutes. There's not a lot of dialogue in After Image, and no disrespect to Mellencamp, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, his sign language skills have him speaking his words like William Shatner, and most of his intonations are flatly emotionless, but I guess his perpetually disheveled look is supposed to signify his rattled psyche.
But ripping on the pacing or the acting takes away from what makes After Image somewhat strong, and that's the surprisingly striking visual scope of the film. Though it cost right around $1.5 million to make, you wouldn't know it by looking at it, because it seems the filmmakers have studied what looks brooding, and they've been able to capture that look quite well. Odd angles, sweeping overhead shots and shadowy sequences all combine to lend a polished and dramatically stylized look to the film, that even with its snail pacing I was never dulled by what I was seeing, regardless of whether or not I cared one iota about anyone in the film.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: A nice looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Miramax, with strong shadow delineation for all the dark, creepy scenes and warm, natural colors for the daylight bits. There is bit of grain throughout, but otherwise a very respectable job.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Only one audio choice, and it's a moderately expansive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, at least upfront. Pleasing directional movement across the three front speakers substantially widens the soundstage, and that accents some of the thriller elements, with sounds that take place far offscreen coming properly from the right or left channels. Not much in the way of rear channel cues, but a few discrete sounds rise up periodically.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dracula III: Legacy
Extras Review: The Making Of After Image (20m:35s) reveals the modest budget of the film, and how the filmmakers struggled to land a "name" actor to keep their funding. I went back and looked at After Image a second time after hearing Manganelli discuss just how shoestring their finances were (we learn how much it costs to have pigeons onscreen), and the final product is deceptively stylish. Portraying Death: The Art of Special Effects Make Up (08m:37s) is short talk about the creation of the various dead bodies that crop up during the story, and again, how some impressive work was done for not a lot of cash.
There are also a few text screens of Production Notes By Robert Manganelli, pointing out things like the hassles of lighting a church properly or the special design used for water towers. The disc is cut into 14 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThe story is a bit loose, and the pacing seems oddly slow, but visually this low-budget thriller has the stylish look of something far more costly. Some strong visual moments rescue this from completely going nowhere, and the promise of a psychotic bad guy who sorts eggs for a living gets regretfully squandered.
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