DVD Review: After Image
Release Date: August 2, 2005
Distributor: Miramax Home Entertainment
by Paul Schultz
Published: August 15, 2005
When you pick up a DVD package and the blurb at the top of the cover screams "in the thrilling vein of Insomnia and One Hour Photo"
you instantly know it will not be as good as either one of those films.
Such is the case with After Image, a pretentious, arty, slow-paced
crime drama that's long on visual style and short on plot. Even the
back-cover description touts this as being "an intense psychological crime story that delivers thrills in the must-see tradition of Insomnia and One Hour Photo." It is none of these things, and I'm not sure why they feel the need to compare themselves with these Robin Williams vehicles. Still, I can't complain with the synopsis too much. It went a long way toward helping explain to me what the film is about -- something you'd be hard-pressed to figure out by watching it.
Starring singer John Mellencamp as crime-scene photographer Joe MacCormack, this is the first feature film by writer and director Robert Manganelli. The film opens with troubled MacCormack witnessing a particularly brutal murder scene. Having finally photographed one too many of these homicides, he literally throws his camera in the river and departs for his childhood home. There he finds the ailing aunt (Louise Fletcher) who raised him, along with his mentally-challenged brother who lives next-door. A
mysterious deaf woman named Lora (Terrylene) delivers groceries for this aunt and, according to the handy plot summary, "Joe and Lora have an instant attraction" although I saw not the slightest evidence of this. I suppose if your husband is the director, and he shoots endless dream sequences of you running naked through a warehouse, that could cause a bit of a chemistry problem with the lead actor. Apparently Lora is clairvoyant and begins having creepy premonitions of imminent murders as the perpetrator exercises his right to voyeurism by spying on her and sending tapes of his murders to Joe. There is one particularly disturbing scene of
a young teen girl being murdered with a crowbar in her bedroom (albeit off-screen) while the killer strategically positions a movie camera to record the proceedings.
After Image features a burned-out
crime-scene photographer, but the
viewer may be the one burned-out
after watching this clunker.
Chickens and eggs play a prominent role in the pathological killer's (Michael
Zelniker) life though I don't why, when he's the "bad
egg." Louise Fletcher is underutilized and is pretty much just there
to show off her diabetes-scarred legs, get suffocated in a preposterous murder
scene, and get cooked to a crisp in a crematorium. Worse than this is the
brother with the unmentioned mental problem who serves absolutely no purpose to
the story. Mellencamp is sufficiently brooding in his unconvincing van dyke
beard. That is, until a scene calls for real emotion to be conveyed and
it's then that you painfully realize his acting skills are seriously deficient.
Manganelli's background in photography and art is evident in his direction
and with the help of cinematographer Kurt Brabbee he has compiled scenes that
have true visual impact. They make no sense whatsoever, but they look
great. There's constant confusion about what is real and what isn't as
these visual extravaganzas roll by. The background music by composer Richard
Tuttobene exudes creepy resonance, but when time and time again the plot fails
to deliver any surprises or any real action, these aural cues only serve to
Last, but not least, there are huge logic holes that negate any sense of
realism to the proceedings. The aforementioned Fletcher murder scene and
aftermath take place in a hospital that would be closed down in a second for its
lack of security. Joe, for some unexplained reason, knows sign language and begins
haltingly with Lora in that manner. He says that he knows a little sign
language but, hey, I know a little sign language and I couldn't possibly
keep up with the fluid gestures of actress Terrylene, who is actually
deaf. The conversation via sign language is not sub-titled (though
Mellencamp's character often says what he is signing) which is not too handy for
anyone who doesn't understand ASL.
Filled with plenty of style and lots of weird imagery, After Image
delivers on the eye-candy but is utterly forgettable, with nothing of value to
take away from its viewing. Mellencamp's performance leaves you with a "Lonely
Ol' Night" devoid of any entertainment.
The Making of After Image is a fascinating 20-minute look into
the behind-the-scenes activities needed to produce an independent film. It
opens with a man literally going door-to-door to solicit investments for the
picture. There are many discussions about how to make this movie look like
it cost $20 million when they only have a budget of $1.4 million.
Production Notes by Robert Manganelli is a text-only look at how
corners were cut and creativity utilized to be able to film scenes within their
Portraying Death: The Art of Special Effects Make-Up is an
eight-minute interview with Multi-Vision FX's Michael Del Rossa on how special
effects were created for the film.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1),
enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for
the hearing impaired.