After is an easily overlooked independent film directed by Ryan Smith about two strangers who survive a bus accident that find themselves the only inhabitants of their hometown. This fantasy, suspense film is like a Twilight Zone inspired boy meets girl story.
Many viewers will be turned off by its slow build-up and predictable premise. Some might even complain that it offers little in the way of scares or gore. But those of you that are tired of formulaic, jump-scare splattered, horror films should at least appreciate this film’s decent attempt to break from that tradition. The mystery was also intriguing at times.
The story follows the struggles of two strangers, living practically next to each other, and yet completely in different worlds. The two miraculously find themselves trapped in their town as a mysterious black wall of smoke slowly pushes them inward. With only three days remaining, Ana and Freddy (Karolina Wydra and Steven Strait) are forced to learn more about what has happened to them in order to escape their possible fates. Throughout the process the audience finds out just how intertwined their lives really are.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that Ana is a failed writer and Freddy is an aspiring artist. The two characters are meant to be connected, like a comic book having both a written story element (the writer) and a visually drawn element (the artist). We see similar bookends with the characters’ backstories as well. For example, Ana had her aunt, who gave her a necklace. Freddy meanwhile had his stepdad, who gave him a ball.
In the scene where the characters brush past each other at the carnival, we find old Freddy with young Ana on one side and old Ana with young Freddy on the other. This is the point in the movie where their lives first converged. From that moment on, their lives were destined to keep coming back together, no matter how far apart they managed to separate. In fact, only when they accomplished togetherness does the story actually resolve. It wasn’t when Ana woke from her coma, as you might expect. It was after she got Freddy to remember what had happened to them together.
This idea is further strengthened when you check out the end credit scene where we find Ana and Freddy together on a crowded bus. Both are content and happy together, which is completely opposite of their awkward, almost standoffish, initial encounter on an empty bus at the beginning of the film.
I enjoyed the story a lot. I very much felt like I was sitting back and watching an old episode of The Twilight Zone. The characters were charming and the two leads worked well together. I actually expected the movie to be ended in an almost “To be continued” fashion, because of its mention earlier in the film. I was ultimately happy with how the story turned out though.
I give the film a 2.8 out of 5 bowties.