Director: John Huddles
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 2.5/10
John Huddles’ After the Dark is an interesting concept for a film on paper, cashing in on the recent trend in survival scenarios, but in execution the film is an insufferable mess from start to finish. It’s a film that supposedly raises philosophical questions by proposing a hypothetical scenario involving a group of classmates needing to continue the human race after a nuclear fallout. Unfortunately, any amount of thought provoking material is completely muddled by the ridiculous script and gaping plot holes.
The film takes place at some sort of prestigious high school in Jakarta, where a group of gifted youngsters attend a class on philosophy. It’s the last day of their senior year, and the teacher, played by James D’Arcy, proposes one final test that will determine their final grade. This test involves a scenario where each student pulls a card from random that contains a job title and trait and the students must collectively decide who enters the fallout shelter to repopulate the world and who stays out. There are only 10 beds in the shelter so half the students must sacrifice themselves and those only deemed the most important can go in.
This idea results in the first issue with the film- the complete lack of consequence. Since the bulk of the film happens within the imagination of the students, there’s never any real threat to speak of. If they fail, they simply start over. The rules are dictated by the teacher, who plays the game with them as a participant, effectively bending the story at will in order to make them fail. This in and of itself renders the game skewed and pointless considering he can basically fabricate any reason he wants to make them lose. If the fact that they are all trying to get a good grade is a factor, there’s no rhyme or reason behind how they are graded, and little to no explanation. This alone makes the film utterly useless.
Furthermore, after the second time they fail, one of the students uses information she learns in the previous game in order to help survive this go around. This also negates the point of the exercise because if this were a real world scenario she would have no prior knowledge of this information. That is just one of the many plot holes that plague After the Dark, and help make it a very unpleasant and aggravating viewing experience.
The film also gets into some very adult themes, involving reproduction between the students and sex in general. This doesn’t seem appropriate at all in a classroom setting, especially considering there’s a scene involving the teacher attempting to sexually assault one of the students. There’s no clear indication of how they are playing this out within the classroom, it just cuts back and forth between fantasy and reality, so we never really know how this story is being told.
After the Dark tries to raise interesting questions by referencing things one would learn in philosophy 101 but it squanders a halfway interesting concept with just how ridiculously stupid everything is. I am very thankful that none of it was real however, as I would dread the thought of having these people be humanities last bastion of hope.