★★★★ out of ★★★★★
This Australian indie effort punches above its weight and delivers a thrilling, mesmerizing watch about a teenage girl whose recently deceased mother has been replaced in the family unit by a woman who looks alarmingly like that very mother.
Directed by Jack Dignan
Writer/director Jack Dignan’s Australian horror feature After She Died is a blast. The film belies its low budget for several reasons, not the least of which is the panache and elan that Dignan displays throughout this nifty shocker.
Jen (Liliana de la Rosa, as Liliana Ritchie) has just graduated from high school in her small town and is still trying to figure out what to do with her life, as some of her friends are moving away to university. Listening to her mother Isabel (Vanessa Madrid) and father John (Paul Talbot) argue loudly isn’t helping her growing pains any, either. Isabel suddenly dies, and Jen is still grieving when John introduces her to his new girlfriend, Florence, who happens to be the spitting image of Isabel.
Jen, naturally, has a difficult time coping with this, and it doesn’t make matters easier when Florence constantly insists that they be a family. The weirdness, both for Jen and for viewers, escalates as Jen’s friends either take notice of the similarities between Florence and Isabel or start distancing themselves from Jen. All the while, tension mounts as Jen and Florence find themselves increasingly further at odds.
It seems as though John had never heard of “The Monkey’s Paw” or its many variations, but Dignan appears well-schooled on his horror cinema. He knows how to build suspense and mystery, light scenes to make them pop (you’ll notice some giallo-inspired lighting among the film’s bag of tricks), and how to deliver a wallop of a third act. The members of his sizable cast all give solid performances, with de la Rosa leading the way as the confused but strong Jen, and Madrid shining as her perfect foil.
Dignan takes a tried-and-true fright-fare basis and twists, turns, and plays with expectations marvelously. Viewers are in for plenty of surprises and lunacy with After She Died, which comes strongly recommended.
Review by Joseph Perry
After She Died screens as part of A Night of Horror International Film Festival, which takes place at Dendy Cinemas Newtown, Sydney, Australia, from October 17th until October 23rd, 2022. For more information, visit https://www.anightofhorror.com.
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