Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or
improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if
you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can
be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.
Neville Harmer (Steven Longhurst) has lived most of his life dominated by his
rich, wheelchair-bound father, in whose old country mansion he still lives as a
grown up. Lately, Neville has found someone else to tell him what to do, though.
I suppose his girlfriend Vicky's (Catherine Rowlands) way to manipulate him is
rather more pleasant. Still, having the bedroom of a grumpy old guy right next
door to your own can put a strain on any relationship.
One day, Neville's father dies in a freak wheelchair accident, leaving
Neville with quite an inheritance. Unfortunately, his dad's will contains a
clause that forbids his son to sell the dreary old mansion and demands of him to
keep living there. The family business has been conducted out of the house
Living alone in the house with Vicky, with their only regular human contact
being the manly-man groundskeeper Patrick (David Slater) and Neville's secretary
Dorothy (Wendy Young), seems to put Neville under quite some psychic strain. He
is convinced that the house is haunted, and what do you know? Soon after he has
told Vicky about his ideas he begins to see a strange, papier-mâché-masked
figure creeping around. The séance Vicky arranges "just for fun" doesn't exactly
soothe his mind either.
The strange happenings are of course all part of a mildly fiendish plot Vicky
and Patrick have concocted to make Neville look disturbed enough to commit
suicide. All seems to be going well with their plan, until a masked Patrick
throws Neville out of a window without managing to kill his boss.
Their victim still doesn't realize what's really going on, though, so there's
always a chance for a second try. It should be easier to murder Neville now
anyway, seeing that his fall left him as paralyzed and wheelchair-bound as his
father before him.
With this thought (and sex) on their mind, the would-be murderers are getting
careless, and it does not take long until Neville finally understands what is
really going on around him. This realization - and the possibly not unfounded
idea that his ancestral home itself is trying to protect him - suddenly lets the
up to now passive man grow a spine. Neville develops his own plan for a little
Finding any information about The Hereafter's director Michael J.
Murphy (here working under the pseudonym of Michael Mersack) or his films online
isn't exactly easy. The IMDB for example only lists two of his 25 movies, this
one not among them. Fortunately there is at least this interview to be
found, which makes Murphy sound like a British version of some of the
budget-less yet driven filmmakers who are responsible for some of the most
interesting genre films you'll be able to see. People like him and Norman J.
Warren make me wish for a UK-oriented version of Stephen Thrower's wonderful
book Nightmare USA. In Murphy's case, I'd even be satisfied with the
simple availability of more of his movies.
The Hereafter itself isn't exactly a masterpiece, not even of the
highly skewed and strange variation I usually get excited about. It is not weird
enough of a film to be fascinating, and a little too dull to fully function as
the thriller with slight supernatural undertones it is supposed to be. That does
not mean The Hereafter is bad, rather, the whole film seems to be out
to prove to later generations of backyard and low budget filmmakers that having
no money need not be an excuse for having no ambition of making an actual movie
instead of a shoddy succession of scenes you call a movie, but fails at the
final hurdle of working as well as it would like to.
At the least this one has a real script, with not original yet at least
consistent characters, and tries its hardest to make an unexciting premise into
an exciting film by sheer force of will of its director.
Murphy didn't have money, but he had a creepy looking house, a lake, and
woods, and he obviously tried his hardest to put them to as much and as good use
to build a mood as possible.
You can really see the director straining in every shot to do something at
least a little interesting, be it through the use of unconventional angles, more
thoughtful than one can expect editing or some very cool use of handheld shots.
Sometimes - to be honest a little too often - the film is only straining for
that point where "interesting" becomes something more, but in its best moments
like the scene of Neville using all his not exactly inexhaustible strength (very
much reminding me of the movie itself in this point) to crawl up a flight of
stairs, it actually finds it and becomes the sort of stubbornly individualistic
film I'm looking for in my no-budget movies.
That stairs scenes is also one of the fine moments of Steven Longhurst in a
film not exactly dominated by strong acting. I wouldn't call the film's acting
bad, it just tends to be (perhaps in conscious avoidance of soap operatic
scenery-chewing) a bit too disaffected for its own good. It's a bit of a shame
when you look at the handful of scenes where Longhurst and Rowlands are allowed
to show a bit more emotion. The unemotional effect is amplified by the fact that
much if not all of the dialogue seems to have been dubbed in after the film was
shot and everyone's line readings sound very much like readings.
However, what differentiates The Hereafter enough from many other
ultra low budgets films that only sometimes achieve their artistic goals to make
me pine for seeing more of Murphy's films is the raw talent underlying it all.
It seems obvious to me that Murphy had the ability and the creativity to make a
film that's special. If he has ever managed to actually make one is something
I'd just love to find out.