They’ve got printers in the basement you can use: the enduring uncanniness of After Last Season

I’ve been collecting movies for decades and, like any film nerd, I have some items I’m proud of: various Criterion DVDs and Blu-Rays, latter-day video nasties, etc. But my most cherished possession is a little-known DVD I bought for around $10 on Amazon in 2009, the now out-of-print After Last Season.

Most people haven’t heard of this movie, so let’s start with its utterly bizarre trailer. When this appeared on Apple’s trailer website (!), the general response was confusion: this must be a joke, right? But no, 6 years later, it’s become clear that this is no joke – or at least, if it is a joke, this is one seriously long con. I won’t recapitulate all of the weirdness surrounding this movie (it reportedly cost $5 million; it was actually released on 35mm in a handful of cinemas; according to the director, the computer graphics alone cost millions of dollars). You can learn more about that via the links in this post. Rather, I want to focus on the movie itself, because After Last Season is the best bad movie I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’m not even sure it can be classified as a “bad” movie in the traditional sense.

But first, let’s back up for a moment. Bad movie culture, especially in the wake of The Room, Rifftrax, and MST3K, is more robust than ever. Bad movie aficionados have a huge buffet of crap films to watch, from the deadpan strangeness of Neil Breen to Birdemic and beyond.  One definition of humor is that it’s the discrepancy between what is expected versus what actually happens, and this is exactly why conventionally “bad” movies are enjoyable: you can see what the filmmakers were trying to do, and their utter failure to achieve this is hilarious. (Troll 2 wants to be Eurohorror a la Argento; Birdemic wants to be The Birds; etc.)

But After Last Season is not like those other movies: it’s completely mysterious what director Mark Region was trying to do. After Last Season does not have any clear cinematic antecedents. Instead, it falls into the long and creepy tradition of the uncanny / unheimlich (see also the uncanny valley): it has the superficial look and feel of a real movie, but actually it is something alien. Incredibly, the strangeness of the trailer is sustained for the entirety of the movie: 8.5 x 11 paper is haphazardly taped to walls to mark locations, props appear to be made of painted cardboard, actors spout continuous streams of non sequiturs, and scenes are placed in random order without any sense of plot. The result is a movie that is funny for the first 5 minutes and then hypnotizingly creepy for the remaining duration. I’ve watched After Last Season a number of times and I can’t even remember individual scenes; rather, there’s a pervasive feeling of a lingering fever dream. I can’t stress enough how novel this movie is: I’ve never seen anything else like it and probably never will, unless Mark Region gets around to making another movie. For the sake of cineastes who enjoy pure undiluted weirdness, let’s hope he does.

Further links:

A two-part article on the movie from Medium, including interviews with some of the cast: Part 1, Part 2
A review of the movie, with more interviews
TV Tropes
It has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes!
Letterboxd users know what’s up (I especially like Gregory Joseph’s review)
An interview with director Mark Region which, unsurprisingly, clears up absolutely none of the mystery
Reviews of the movie from 366 Weird Movies and Twitchfilm.