There is a fine line between clever and stupid, as the saying goes, and there is an equally finer line between parody and legitimate outright awfulness. If something is so amateurishly put together that it comes across as being awful, like Ed Wood’s body of work, it’s an also incredibly difficult thing to do something like that in an intentional manner. There is a sincerity to amateurism, in how those involved really did try their best but proved to have no real talent, that you can’t fake, so those who try to poke fun are always at a disadvantage. It’s certainly possible to parody these kind of things so that they come close (SCTV being the true masters of this art), but no matter who you are, no matter how talented you may be, you simply can’t fake being awful. That’s something that has to come straight from the heart.
This is what I’ve been keeping in mind when I think about Mark Region’s AFTER LAST SEASON, which has become a bit of an internet sensation of sorts after the film’s inexplicable trailer somehow ended up on Apple’s trailer page. There’s no way this thing could be real, people thought, looking so inexplicably bad that it had to be a phony, and there’s no way this thing is ever going to come out in theaters, they believed, too. Well, on June 4 AFTER LAST SEASON actually opened in four markets in the U.S., one of them being Austin, TX, and there really wasn’t any way you were gonna keep me away from this one, not in a million years. I have a real fascination with cinematic car wrecks - the more obscure, the better – and I figured that whether it was fake or the real thing, I had to check this one out while I could. The first word on the film from someone who saw it (and the first review to pop up online) came from my friend Rodney Perkins, who writes for Twitch and is a pretty smart guy who can spot a fake when he sees one, and Rodney came back with the news that AFTER LAST SEASON was the real deal, not only a legit piece of The New Awful, but a memorable one, at that. And then the weirdness on this one intensified: First, an e-mail interview with Region that seemed to raise more questions that it answered ($5 million? Really!?!), followed by word from one of the cast members that the film was not just legit but that Region, apparently an Asian who did not speak perfect English, was 100% the real deal, a guy with no actual filmmaking skills who lucked into getting to direct a movie.
If you’ve seen the trailer to AFTER LAST SEASON (embedded below), then you have a very good idea of just what kind of film it is, because what you see there is truly what you get. It’s a movie of small talk, lame acting, inexplicable plot lines and amateur filmmaking of the highest order, and it’s like this for 90 minutes solid. I was trying to actually piece together just what the film is about (there’s an experiment in mind reading and the ghost of a murdered grad student) but by saying that it makes AFTER LAST SEASON sound like some kind of genre film, which it most definitely is not. It’s incredibly slow and ponderous due only to Region’s obvious lack of filmmaking abilities, possessing absolutely no concept of plotting, pacing or storytelling, and it prods on filled with scenes of characters discussing little things that don’t have anything to do with the events that eventually transpire, so when the plot kicks in, it’s so amazingly far-fetched and ridiculous (and so poorly thought out) that you slap you head in astonishment. Then there are the scenes filled with 1993-era CGI that take up a large part of the third act, all so bizarre and out of left field that you’ve got to wonder what the point is. And then when they supposedly get there in the final scene, you’re not only left wondering just what was going on, but what kind of lines did Region use to convince a clueless Christian or New Age church to pay for this thing? One hopes they haven’t been bankrupted by their funding of AFTER LAST SEASON.
But there’s always a “but…”, and for AFTER LAST SEASON it lies in it's unmissable sincerity. At the very least, AFTER LAST SEASON tries to be about something meaningful, though I’m really at a loss as to just what that something is. The level of storytelling amateurism on display here is preferable to the fanboy amateurism to be found in the latest zombie or comic book hero wannbe flick because there’s an attempt to say something from the heart here that would be admirable if it weren’t so incoherent and dumbfounded. I’m reminded of a playwriting course that I took in high school that wielded numerous plays about parental troubles, peer pressure, and relationship troubles that were by no means good, but the authors meant every word that they said 100%, and that gave the plays some value. Region believes in his message (which I think is about the power of memory and how those we love never leave us after they’re gone), so at the very least he seems to be trying to say something meaningful (at least to Region), so I can cut him a tiny bit of slack for not making something soulless. If Region knew what he was doing and had some real imagination and storytelling skills AFTER LAST SEASON could have been something interesting and possibly worth discussing, but let’s face it, Region doesn’t really possess any talent, so the point is moot. There’s no question that AFTER LAST SEASON is memorable, and awful, and most likely 100% legit. I feel bad for Region because he’s going to get mocked at for the rest of his life when all he wanted to do was tell a story that, it turns out, he had no idea how to tell. Despite all this, I honestly have to say that as bad movies go I have definitely seen a lot worse, and most importantly, that sincerity is what saves the film from being a slit-your-wrist kind of film going experience. At least they tried.