In my descent into the the universe of terrible cinema, certain films stand above all others as bastions of surreal awfulness. Every possible thing that could possibly make a movie bad is mashed into one another, forming a turducken of incompetence. And then, some movies find a place above that. And then, there is After Last Season.
More Accurate Tagline: *stunned silence*
Guilty Party: Over my long and storied history with yakmala films, I have developed but one critical theory of note, and that is the Insane Foreign Businessman Auteur Theory. I can’t prove Mark Region, the writer, director, producer, and cinematographer of After Last Season is an insane foreign businessman, because he is mysterious even by the lofty standards of Tommy Wiseau. I also can’t prove Mark Region isn’t a raccoon that somehow obtained video equipment and accidentally filmed isolated moments at a head trauma ward.
Synopsis: Trying to write a synopsis of After Last Season is like trying to get a police sketch of Cthulhu: best case scenario is everyone’s face melts.
Matthew Andrews (Jason Kulas, looking like a little like Jay Karnes after a pre-frontal lobotomy) and Sarah Austin (a shellshocked Peggy McClellan) are two college students in their mid-to-late thirties, interning at the Prorolis Corporation. This company is located in an abandoned building and consists mostly of empty rooms scattered with last few remnants of office supplies not grabbed when the world economy collapsed, connected by dingy hallways decorated with swatches of wrapping paper, arrows pointing to nothing, and the occasional enigmatic letter taped to the wall. It’s the kind of place you go to if your hobbies are becoming the secret ingredient in hobo chili.
At the same time, a serial killer is on the loose around the school and has already claimed several victims including Craig Marlen, who we learn later is either the son or the brother of the local Parkinson’s specialist, who owns the only MRI machine made entirely of paper.
Matt and Sarah agree to meet for a “psychology test” in a room which I believe Matt chose as a subtle hint to Sarah that this little date is going to end in a shallow grave. Matt has somehow come into the possession of microchips, that when affixed to their temples, will let him see her thoughts rendered in the finest CGI 1974 has to offer. Calling this virtual reality would be like giving your kid herpes and calling it a bike. Sarah thinks this is a swell idea, and the movie gets downright Kubrickian, if Stanley Kubrick suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome.
Eventually, after dicking around with geometric shapes and upsetting birds, their vision gets hijacked by that of what looks like two tin woodsmen trying to tickle each other with some kind of knockoff dildo from a Chinese factory that has stopped giving a fuck. Eventually Matt and Sarah are interrupted by what seems to be an invisible killer, who ineffectually stalks them around this little room while both Sarah and Matt stare dazedly into space. Not because they’re still in their virtual reality just because they both perpetually look like they just walked in on their parents having sex with the Philly Phanatic.
And then the movie decides that we, the audience can fuck ourselves. Matt wakes up, and the whole chip interlude, which was easily a third to a half of the film, was a dream.
Matt and Sarah attempt to leave, but then the audience’s rage at such a cheap narrative device appears in the form of the actual serial killer, stabbing someone in the hall. Yay! Kill them, serial killer! Sadly, the serial killer suffers from the same slow gas leak that is impairing everyone else in the movie, because when he comes into the room where Matt and Sarah are, he can’t see them, despite them standing right out in the open and hiding behind nothing more than their own dazed expressions. A folding chair flies at the killer and hits him right in the knockout button, which is located on this guy’s wrists, I guess.
Matt and Sarah then get into a long conversation with Craig, the ghost who just saved them. I… I don’t know. It happened, okay? That’s what happens in the goddamn movie. I can’t control that. I can’t change it. The fucking ghost saved them from the blind narcoleptic serial killer. Let’s just move on.
Life-Changing Subtext: The film’s subtext can only be understood by the poor murdered people who haunt its every frame.
Defining Quote: Haley Marlen (either John’s wife or mom, there’s debate): “We have a room next to the living room.” This is the last line of the film. Process that for a second. And then contact a mental health professional, because you’re insane now.
Standout Performance: In a movie populated entirely by perpetually gobsmacked zombies, Jason Kulas stands alone. I have an urge to photoshop him into famous scenes from history. He can stare emotionlessly at the flag raising at Iwo Jima, at Tank Man in Tiananmen Square, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I want to see Kulas react to everything in stunned indifference, as though everything is at once mind-shattering and totally banal. Upon his face is the glorious paradox that can only be described as a Lovecraftian tax audit.
What’s Wrong: I made passing reference to the fact that this film is shot exclusively in abandoned buildings where one or more people have been murdered on film for the jaded pleasures of a cabal of ultra-rich patrons whose senses have been dulled by the never ending pursuit of decadence. The restless dead from these crimes have infected the film, which can be heard in the rumbling and whispering on the soundtrack. Oh, sure, you might point to an incompetent sound man picking things up, but no! I know the truth! This is the only film made entirely out of an Indian Burial Ground.
Flash of Competence: This movie periodically boasts shots of ceiling fans and off-center photocopies of pictures of brains taped to a wall. It pretends that the corner of the same building that’s only good for a homeless Black Mass is both an office park and an apartment building. It features a bunch of white pillars in the snow for no reason. It uses fucking CGI from 1974 in 2009! If Ben Stein ever went insane, the screenplay of this movie would be what he would scrawl on his victims.
There was not a single moment of competence.
Best Scenes: Oh, fuck you.
Transcendent Moment: This is a tricky one, since the film continually finds new ways to fail. Every last frame is perfectly terrible. Every narrative choice is wrong. Readers, I give you the perfect yakmala film. The rarest of all beasts. The heterosexual unicorn, if you will.
Watch After Last Season. If you have any interest in terrible cinema, this is the movie you have been waiting for. See how deep the rabbit hole goes. Understand.