Urban exploration”, or “Urbex” as it is often abbreviated to, is the extreme sporting communities name for breaking into abandoned human constructions and having a nose about. Nice to have a name for it. The film definitely focuses on the “extreme” side of the activity rather than the historical interest in delving about in the neglected holes of the human civilisation or the beauty of seeing nature bend steel and break through concrete to reclaim its land. As such the film is shot like an extreme sports film, hand held, low quality, shoulder cameras, digital gain and fish eye lenses. One of the three characters likes to film their exploits with a little digital video camera pen and the film very much plays with the idea that we only see stuff that they could have shot themselves without going down the mockumentary route. The style is very successful and creates a real sense of claustrophobic urgency and the fast movements mixed with the fast cutting provide a cheap effective way of producing a solid amount of action.
The Crystal Method lay a thick cloth of bland American dance music over the whole film. It might be kind of in keeping with some extreme sports videos but it still did a fantastic job of destroying tension and atmosphere. I bet there is a version lying around somewhere with some more appropriate music on it, it has the feeling of a last minute "must make this film more popular" decision.
The main three characters are pretty unlikeable and annoying, but for the first half an hour it is difficult to care as the plot is just about them engaging excitedly in their hobby all of which plays out nicely. Then from two fronts came two enormous problems.
The first is the exact same problem that I had with The Descent. Now I like monsters and ghosts in films, there are a lot of films that I would really like to put some monsters and ghosts into just to liven things up but I was having a nice time with all the avoiding trains and crawling through small dusty holes and looking about at glass jars filled with animals. I was even a little bit worried about the characters however much I disliked them. The first apparition took all of that worry away, I was no longer scared about asbestos, or bits of rusty metal or collapsing ceilings and floors or loose wiring, now there was a ghost and I wasn't very worried about a ghost. From then on, there were plenty more ghostly happenings and lots of other stuff which kind of came out of the blue but there was certainly no more real urban exploring.
The second problem was the aforementioned atrocious plot which I am now going to talk about so if you do not want spoilers skip on to the final paragraph. A horror about urban explorers did not need a great emotional plot, in fact it needed very little plot at all, unfortunately it had one that clambered for more and more attention the worse it got pushing anything good about the film way off into the distance. The film hints toward a terrible plotty undercurrent for a while but the the first proper flashback stabs itself into the film revealing the guts of a Media Studies students mental and physical resources. Bleached out digital footage tries to hide a lack of lighting, acting or production design. Through several more flashbacks it is revealed that two of the main characters had a little girl who the father lost in a playground to a paedophile with a very attractive pink ball whilst being chatted up by a Russian woman. Back in their urban exploring nightmare the father still feels guilty and the mother reveals, after coming in contact with some radiated hobos, that she is pregnant again. Things try as hard as they can to get weird before finally revealing that the majority of the film has all been a dream, or as good as.
You probably should never bother watching After...but if you do, it will be ok, you will probably get to the end in tact.