After Last Season (2009)

UPDATE 12TH JULY: Many thanks to the brilliant Casey McDougal (@caseymcdougal), who not only didn’t mind me ragging on a film she was in, but who provided me with a factual correction and two awesome stories about working on the film, which I’ll put as footnotes.

I think a bit of background is essential when reviewing a film like this. There are a million no-budget indie films out there, but this one stands head-and-shoulders…not “above”, as that would imply quality, let’s say “head-and-shoulders to the side”. In 2009, a trailer appeared and got a few film blogs and cult movie forums baffled. Have a look for yourself:

Trailer! Dare you enter?

I was going to dismiss it with a word like “insane”, but that just doesn’t do it justice. It actually makes my brain feel scratchy with its absolute disregard for anything approaching the most basic level of understanding of what makes someone want to watch a film – the flat, affectless dialogue so centred around directions, travel and MRI machines; the sets, so astonishingly cheap that you think “that’s got to be a joke, right?”; and the computer graphics. Oh, those graphics! So this film started a bit of a buzz – my favourite being that it was viral marketing for…”Where The Wild Things Are! I normally discount such rumours, but this one was so off-the-wall I had to repeat it. The fact that Jonze’s film was set in some furry-populated alternate reality and this wasn’t didn’t seem to deter people (okay, it could have just been one person) from thinking he’d knocked off a £250 film in his spare time to get people talking about his big film was a great idea. Oh, did I say £250?

The other thing that got people talking about this film was the budget. Director Mark Region (surely a made up name) apparently spent $4 million making this film. Now, I’m no accountant, but there’s no way on Earth this film cost $4 million. I know, with the RedLetterMedia-generated fuss over “Jack and Jill”, the Adam Sandler classic, that it’s common to say that films were made as a tax dodge, or for money laundering, or something similar. Now, if he spent as much as he claims, either one of those two things is true, or there’s a producer somewhere sat with $3.99 million in the bank with a big grin on his face.

I haven’t even got to the film yet, have I? Oh, you’ve got some fun to come. I’m almost tempted to tell you to stop reading this if you’ve not already seen the film, track it down, watch it and then come back to this review to see if I mention your favourite bit, or to share in my incredulity that this thing ever got made at all. Go on, actually. Go and watch it. You won’t be disappointed. It’s an incredibly unique experience.

They’re trying to wipe the memory of this film from their brains

You’re back? Please, stop wishing death on me. Let’s go through this film and see just what makes it what it is. It starts off with a perfect storm of badness – one so extraordinarily incompetent that it sets alarm bells off in your mind. There’s a hospital MRI room. But, it’s actually just the lounge from some house with all the furniture taken out – the walls are pink, there’s a (completely unsanitary for a hospital) ceiling fan with only one working light, the sole decoration is three MRI pictures stuck to the wall…and then there’s the machine itself. Imagine something which is roughly the same size and shape as an MRI machine, but made entirely out of paper. I mean, it’s obviously paper, too. Right from there, I’m antsy and confused – why make such an odd choice? But anyway, the guy getting scanned is an FBI Agent, I think. I only saw the damn thing last night (for the second time!) and the details are trying to delete themselves from my mind, like my own subconscious is trying to save my sanity.

Anyway, there’s a murder. Someone walking down a corridor in their dorm building sees an open door and a dead body inside a room.

ASIDE: At this point, it would be rude of me to not mention the film’s website. I went on there, just now, in order to help my confusion – it’s changed a little since I ordered the DVD from there, years ago. There’s a section about the film’s visual effects, and you need to visit it (as I can’t right-click and copy their images, annoyingly)., site map, about, visual FX. Just look at what he did with this scene. It’s a put-on, right? There’s no way he could be that odd on purpose, right?

Does this represent the film itself, in some meta way?

Now, we get a random pile of scenes. There’s two medical students, roommates of our film’s heroine, who have one of the most bizarre conversations ever captured on film. Have you ever wondered what a discussion about the towns you grew up in would be like if you removed every bit of information about those towns from it? There are almost literally endless references to “I moved to a town near a big city” and “I’ve never been to that town, but I’ve been through it”, without ever mentioning the name of any town, or city, or indeed anything that might pin this film down. Now, maybe there was a reason for this which seemed sensible in the director’s head, but on screen it just looks like lunacy. Hey, Mark Region! Either allow them to have a human conversation, or don’t show any of this garbage! The annoying thing is, these two people (Casey McDougal and Katarina Morhacova) actually appear to be able to act, and as if to punish them for their talent he gave them dialogue of brain-numbing oddness. [1]

There’s also the meeting of our two stars, who are both medical students who intern at the Prorolis Corporation, the world’s lowest spender in signs advertising itself. Anyway, they’re shown the MRI machine (and we’re shown it again) by their professor, which indicates the film is quite proud of its set building.They have one of those conversations you get in bad films, where something painfully obvious even to a layman is explained in great detail to a group of people who really should know better. If you’re a medical student then one would hope you’d have at least a vague idea of what an MRI machine does.

Please, try not to laugh. These people are taking it seriously

The central section of the film is, to put it mildly, confusing. The male medical student is testing a chip which transfers thoughts, so one person can sort-of see what the other person is thinking, and invites the female to be part of his experiment. The two of them meet  – the description of and directions to the room are as frustratingly vague as the description of towns from earlier. “It’s the room just past the meeting room, on the left-hand side”. Why don’t the rooms have numbers? What have you got against accuracy, Region? Also, the poor female lead is forced to wear a set of men’s clothes several sizes too big for her, as if her part was supposed to be played by a man but at the last minute a woman showed up, and the director insisted that the outfit stayed the same. [2]

Anyway, the test. We are then treated to what seems like several hours, but in fact is only 15 minutes or so, of the man asking the woman a question and her imagining her response. It seems someone got a new graphics program for their 1990-era Commodore Amiga, and we get geometric shapes flying across the screen and occasionally forming something close to a pattern. This calms down, presumably as the transmission process smooths itself out, and we see a murder! It turns out that the woman can see the future, so they try and work out when the next murder is going to be.

Then…male medical student wakes up, and sees female student walking in to begin their test. THE LAST 20 MINUTES OF THE FILM WAS A DREAM!! DEATH, TAKE ME NOW!!! Here’s a problem with the film – if you look at the blurb on the official website, the people writing that seem to believe that what happened inside that dream sequence was real, that it’s a film about medical students using technology to track a killer. It isn’t! It’s yet another layer to this thoroughly perplexing onion. Anyway, it turns out the killer is actually inside the building, and he’s only prevented from killing our heroes by a ghost. I was so thoroughly confused that the addition of all this didn’t really throw me too much, like it was the least of the film’s sins.

The killer is caught, and the chap who got an MRI at the beginning of the film is the FBI agent who shows up to make the arrest. But Mark Region is no ordinary filmmaker, and ends the film with two people having another pointless conversation about the rooms of a house. The last line of the film is “We have a room next to the living room”.

I hope this description is enough to make you people who’ve read this far go out and track this film down, but if not I’ll mention a few other things that may intrigue you. The sets. It seems that the spaces in the film that are supposed to be rooms were filled with whatever the crew could get their hands on – there’s a bedroom with a large selection of filing cabinets in it; there’s a college dorm room with the ugliest set of shelves you’ve ever seen, scattered with five or six pieces of junk, with its wall having a piece of wood nailed to it, along with seemingly randomly placed wallpaper; and a kitchen with an office’s photocopier. Oh, and the test room at the Prorolis Corporation has a bunch of unused rolls of carpet at the back.

I say, without fear of reprisal or hyperbole, that this film is probably the worst film ever made. It makes everything – “Manos; The Hands Of Fate”, “Monster-A-Go-Go”, and “Troll 2”, to name but three – seem better. When you’re out the other end, food tastes better, people look more beautiful and the sun seems warmer. It refuses to provide anything you might expect from a film – drama, love, a plot, the sense that human beings worked on it.

This film is so bad, makes so many wrong choices, that it encourages conspiracy theories. Surely nothing this awful could have happened by chance? That Spike Jonze rumour at the top of the review is just a response by some poor fevered brain that couldn’t quite believe what they’d seen. I’m still no closer to understanding it, or why it was made, or what any of it really meant. But, you know what? Give me an utterly confusing, absolutely awful film like this, over Hollywood generic film X, any day of the week. Well, maybe not every day, I need to give me brain a rest every now and again.

RATING: Minus 100000000 out of 5

PS. My second viewing of this film was thanks to my wife losing a bet. I have slept with one eye open since that night, as I’m sure she believes the punishment far outstripped the crime and is ready to finish me for poisoning her mind and memory with this film.

[1] Now, this is odd, even for a film like this. Apparently the director didn’t tell them the camera was rolling, then would just tell them to start the scene immediately, thoroughly confusing everyone and leaving performances that left something to be desired. Reading a story like this makes me feel bad – not just for actors like Casey, who have a stain like “After Last Season” on their resume, but for my reviews of bad films. Who knows what patently counter-productive directorial decisions contributed to me mocking some actor’s performance in some other film?

[2] This makes a lot more sense now. Apparently, they were filming in a warehouse, which was so cold that they’d have to put on multiple layers of clothing. Now, a sensible director would have put in “wow, I wish the heating was working” line of dialogue in there. Mark Region is not a sensible director.

After Last Season on IMDB


6 thoughts on “After Last Season (2009)

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