By: Trevor Chartrand
On their anniversary, successful films often get a special edition re-release that includes new bonus features, interviews, and a high-def restoration that celebrates the film’s impact and longevity. With a film like 2009’s After Last Season, however, the tenth anniversary brings us nothing but bootlegs and a handful of rare DVDs that sell for $300 online.
After all these years, this unique little movie has generated a small, yet loyal, cult following. But a film like this is worthy of so much more – what After Last Season truly deserves is a legacy. So today we celebrate ten years of using the printers in the basement, ten years of picturing letters (from the alphabet), and ten years of After Last Season.
WHAT IS AFTER LAST SEASON?
For those who aren’t aware, After Last Season is one of those notoriously bad movies that film schools could use as a teaching tool to showcase everything NOT to do while making a motion picture. Between the lighting, framing, sets, ‘special effects’, dialogue, and story – this film gets just about everything wrong.
After Last Season tells the story of two med students, Sarah (Peggy McClellan) and Matthew (Jason Kulas), who learn about cardboard MRI machines all day and conduct ‘psychology exercises’ by night. Their case study involves taping innovative computer chips to each of their temples, which allows them to see each other’s thoughts as vague images; sort of like a digital telepathy. From these projections, Matthew quickly discovers that Sarah is a gifted psychic, and together they use her all-seeing visions to track down a serial killer that has been stabbing students on campus.
After Last Season is a bottomless pit of non-sequiturs and nonsense, and we have director Mark Region to thank for that. Now, not much is known about the man behind the film, but the general consensus is that ‘Mark Region’ is an adopted stage name. It seems likely, especially since ‘Mark’ has a track record of creating other identities for himself. Back in 2009, he allegedly created fake accounts online and used them to write positive reviews of his own movie. He also participated in a few interviews around the time of the film’s release before vanishing into obscurity; possibly embarrassed by the reception of his film.
Having made a film littered with medical jargon, many fans suspect Mark Region was a medical student himself, much like his characters were. On my first viewing, I theorized that he wrote the film as a clever way to study for an exam. Region has since put that theory to rest, claiming to be in the real estate business with a passing interest in medical technology. Beyond these few details, Region is shrouded in mystery, and perhaps for good reason.
There’s no effort made to build any kind of coherent narrative in After Last Season. It’s as if every scene, every character, and every line of dialogue has been meticulously written to be as irrelevant as possible. In fact, this film devotes a lengthy thirty minutes to the depiction of a sleeping character’s dream sequence. That means we spend more than a third of the film inside this dream world, watching events that are completely extraneous to the overall narrative.
With character dialogue, this film likes to take the long way to a simple thought. For example in a ‘thrill-inducing’ scene, Sarah and her roommate discuss the towns they grew up in (again, without any narrative or thematic relevance). When she’s asked if she has ever been to a particular municipality, Sarah responds, “I’ve never been TO that town, but I’ve been THROUGH it.” Now that’s how you write authentic conversations.
According to Region, After Last Season was shot in Massachusetts on 35mm film with a five million dollar budget. According to the actors, production took place in the dead of winter, with nothing but space heaters warm them on freezing sets. Unsurprisingly, Mark Region’s shooting style was just as erratic as the movie turned out to be. To save on film stock, he would have the actors recite lines from throughout the entire film, often in the same take, never stopping to re-light or re-frame his shots.
With countless wrong turns and poor choices being made on set, the production of After Last Season was a recipe for disaster. The sets all look awful, with the majority of the film taking place in a medical research facility that looks more like a serial killer’s garage (complete with boarded up windows). The hard lighting casts distracting shadows and each shot is framed with so much headroom you see more of the ceiling than you ever see of the actors. The level of incompetence in every aspect of this film makes it an easy target any critic, but it’s also awe-inspiring how colossally unaware this film is.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS
Supposedly, the majority of After Last Season’s budget was spent during post-production, specifically on computer-rendered animation sequences. For a film that came out in 2009, these animated scenes somehow manage to look less life-like than Toy Story did in 1995. For a large chunk of the runtime, we are treated to a series of low-res renderings of 3D cubes, cylinders and rectangles, all floating around aimlessly. Occasionally these objects will take on a semi-recognizable form, but the uncanny valley is more like a galaxy-consuming black hole in this film.
What makes the animation worse is the lack of audio. The majority of these scenes take place in complete silence. With nothing happening on screen and nothing coming through the speakers, the boredom quickly becomes deafening. This section of the film is excruciatingly dull to and takes true effort to sit through.
Nothing about this movie makes sense, not even the film’s title. After Last Season sounds like a movie about a farmer dealing with bad crops. So what do those three words have to do with anything in this movie? The only clue to its meaning is the tagline from the poster: “The end of one season means the beginning of a new one.” Arguably, this tagline raises more questions than it answers.
So why then, does a film this incompetent deserve special recognition? Well much like the film’s unusual title, it’s the mystery that makes this film so intriguing. After ten years, there’s still so many unanswered questions, both about the film and about director Mark Region. The level of incompetence on display here is outstanding, to the point where it deserves accolades for failing so valiantly. There’s just nothing like it, and there never will be. And so, I implore you to track down this illustrious film. Witness the bizarre fever dream yourself. Love it or loathe it, I assure you – you will never forget After Last Season.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor