LIST CANDIDATE: AFTER LAST SEASON (2009)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: Mark Region

FEATURING: , Peggy McClellan

PLOT: Although it’s fairly incoherent, the core of the story involves two medical students working on a project and a serial killer who is stalking the area; telepathy and ghosts also play significant roles, and clunky “special effects” are added courtesy of primitive CAD software.

Still from After Last Season (2009)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST:  “Huh?,” “um…,” and “whah?” are all equally valid responses to After Last Season.  This movie may go down as this generation’s Beast of Yucca Flats: stultifyingly dull at times, but so full of misguided directorial choices and  failed attempts at cinematic poetry that it takes on a dreamlike character.  Watching After Last Season is like trying to follow a old timey radio monologue on an AM radio station with fading reception: you can tell there’s a voice trying to make itself heard, but the transmission is so garbled that the basics of the story become lost in static and long stretches of dead air.  It’s difficult watching, for sure—thus the “beware” rating—but for intrepid curiosity seekers looking to experience the worst of the worst, it’s a must see.  It has potential to become a The Room-like cult item.  Time will tell if After Last Season gains enough of a following that its devotees storm 366 Industries World Headquarters and take the staff hostage, demanding this anti-masterpiece take its rightful place on the List.

COMMENTS:  There’s a concept in cinema theory called “film grammar;” it refers to sets of filmmaking conventions that  have been proven over time to work to tell a story to an audience in a coherent fashion.  A director breaks these “grammatical rules” at the risk of confusing and losing his audience.  Here’s a very simple example of a “grammatical” movie “sentence”: a two way conversation starts with a shot of the character who’s speaking, cuts to a reaction shot of the party who’s listening, then cuts back to allow the speaker to finish his thought.  In After Last Season director Mark Region consistently exhibits atrocious film grammar: he will have his speaker deliver a line and then pause awkwardly, then cut to a shot of the listener reacting to a few moments of silence, then cut back to the speaker, who resumes his thought.   This isn’t a common sort of gaffe; it’s more the equivalent of consistently putting adjectives after nouns.  Another norm that should be self-evident that Region likes to break is “don’t focus on long, undramatic shots of furniture during transitions.”   He’s not just content to mangle the small-scale standards, either; he breaks the big storytelling rules too, rules like “don’t include a scene of your main character discussing which floor has a working printers unless the discussion has some relationship to the plot,”  “don’t have any scenes of completely unnecessary characters discussing genealogy while giggling inappropriately,” and “don’t make one third of your movie a dream sequence unless you have a reason to.”  New characters, or shots of exteriors (or furniture), are introduced without any context and edited randomly into ongoing conversations.  The results are so incoherent and disorienting that it takes two viewings just to verify that there is not a real story hiding somewhere in this mess.

Adding to the oddness, almost the entire film seems to have been shot in one large, vacant house: a medical examining room appears to be someone’s bedroom, with pink walls, a ceiling fan, and an MRI machine made out of cardboard boxes taped up with sagging contact paper.  (The plot doesn’t require an MRI machine, in case you were wondering, but the movie pays it a lot of attention nonetheless).  Region is also fond of taping pieces of paper to walls; usually, they tell you what set your viewing, such as “Prorolis Corporation,” “Psychology Exercise,” or “Cell 1″; but sometimes he inexplicably tapes blank sheets to the exteriors of buildings.  You feel almost saddened for the actors, who aren’t very good or charismatic but obviously received no help from the script or the director; it’s painful to watch them just standing around, not knowing what to do or how to react as they’re being assaulted by invisible forces throwing chairs or stabbing them with unseen knives.  There’s almost no soundtrack, but at times little bursts of a piano or organ playing an odd, semi-melodic series of notes breaks into the action.

This mix of a thin paraspychological plot that’s approximately 50% padding, incoherent storytelling and incompetent production might have produced a bizarre enough concoction, but the weird little cherry on top is the “telepathic” scenes brought to us courtesy of outdated software that was probably originally intended as an aid in architectural design.  (The credits tell us it took ten people to put together these sequences, but you would never be able to tell from the what appears onscreen).  The resulting visions are blocky, geometric abstract designs.  Sometimes they resolve themselves into recognizable objects like automobiles, and in one case into fish in an undersea coral reef made of floating cubes and conic sections.  One ambitious animated scene recreates a murder, with a faceless killer wielding a conical knife against a slow-moving, cartoonified woman.  Mostly, however, we watch abstract shapes floating around in space at different vectors, sometimes colliding and bouncing off each other.  These scenes are long and essentially add nothing to the story, but they contain some nice weird and moody sound effects; focus real hard, and you might be able to achieve an altered state of consciousness off them.

After Last Season made a minor stir on the Internet in 2009 when its nonsensical (but, as it turns out, completely representative) trailer was released on YouTube and other video sites.  The piece was so thoroughly anti-cinematic, with its laughable props and the meaningless minutiae of its dialogue, that  many people assumed it was a parody by an established director.  The frenzy reached it’s peak when Entertainment Weekly published an article repeating rumors that the trailer was a hoax by notorious prankster Spike Jonze intended (somehow) to draw attention to his upcoming film Where the Wild Things Are.  Such rumors still persist among commenters on the IMDB, although now that the complete movie is available, there’s no reason to believe that it’s an experiment in deliberate badness by an established director (if it is, then it’s a failed experiment in entertainment, falling far short of the artistry of a Ted Hood, Jr.)  None of this will stop me from launching another wildly speculative rumor: Mark Region is indeed a pseudonym, but not for an established director.  Region is actually James Nguyen of Birdemic infamy.  Evidence?  In the Entertainment Weekly article Season star Jason Kulas is quoted as saying that Region is of “Asian descent.”  Of course, given the lengths that Kulas is going to promote the movie on his Facebook page, he could be just trying deflect attention from the fact that Kulas is Region.  Feel free to spread either irresponsible rumor around the Net.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…astounding in its ineptitude. I will even go so far as to say that it is the worst theatrically distributed film of the modern era.”–Massawyrm, Ain’t It Cool News (worst of 2009 list)

(This movie was nominated for review by reader “Deacon Lowdown,” who said “the trailer is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.”  [The suggestion was seconded by “LRobbHubbard.”]  Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

5 thoughts on “LIST CANDIDATE: AFTER LAST SEASON (2009)”

  1. This post was lost in the Great Server Crash of 2010. The following comments were recovered via Google cache.

    Andreas Stoehr says This sounds pretty incredible, like a latter-day abomination in the vein of Glen or Glenda, or Sins of the Fleshapoids. If the movie is indeed that terrible and violates so many basic rules of filmmaking, is it at all possible that it’s actually big hoax by Region? Like, does the badness ever tilt over into self-parody?

    In any case, I might have to give this a watch… or at least the trailer.
    October 26, 2010, 3:57 pm

    366weirdmovies says After watching it my view is it’s not a hoax, just a once-in-a-decade bad movie. If there’s any self-parody it’s kept so close to the vest that it might as well be inside the vest. It never becomes humorously bad. The trailer is an accurate representation of the whole movie; there are lots of scenes of people engaging in casual conversations (several about which towns they have or haven’t visited) that in no way advance the plot.
    October 26, 2010, 6:00 pm

    LRobHubbard says Before seeing the movie:
    http://mimezine.blogspot.com/2009/06/after-last-season-art-prank-or-shape-of.html

    After seeing the movie:
    http://mimezine.blogspot.com/2010/09/after-last-season-or-my-eyes-my-brain.html

    To continue the ‘swedeing’ idea, it’s very much like watching people who’ve never seen a film before, attempt to do a contemporary drama using that same aesthetic — if it were done by someone with money and actual talent, it would probably be close to a Michael Chrichton-type thriller.

    I highly suspect that ‘Region’ is Kuras, and that the dubious ‘success’ of THE ROOM probably gave him the idea of how to salvage this disaster… and the supposed $5 million budget for this is obviously b.s. The recent success of the Inept (THE ROOM, BIRDEMIC, TROLL 2, etc.), or The New Lowbrow Cinema, has given an avenue to creative abortions like this being taken somewhat seriously… otherwise, this paragraph would not exist, obviously.
    October 27, 2010, 11:40 am

    Dylan says Having only seen the “comedy” commentary version that’s floating around I don’t really know what to say. It was pretty funny in some parts. If that’s intentional, who knows. My guess is that it is in some way (a feature swede I suppose). I think the computer animation is surprisingly appealing and the MRI is quite charming. Actually, 5 million for the fx? Of course it’s a joke!
    October 27, 2010, 3:47 pm

    Dylan says * I thought the movie was funny, not the commentary…

  2. Well, I was wrong about Kuras possibly being the mastermind behind this… “Mark Region” IS a real person – and he has directed before:

    http://www.alternatetakes.co.uk/?2009,4,225

    MICHAEL PIGOTT:
    This forum thread suggests that the filmmaker’s real name is Sean Chheang Chhun, and that he previously made a 33 minute film called Medium Waves the tag-line of which was ‘A Murder Has Occurred in a Quiet Town.’ Sounds in a similar vein to his current opus, and even evokes ‘A Woman in Trouble.’ The production company was called ‘Sphereplane’ – it gets deeper and deeper… http://www.nyfilmvideo.com/2005/nynov2005/mediumwaves/

    http://www.metafilter.com/80382/I-was-picturing-a-basket%3Cp%3E

    Index Square is, in fact, incorporated in the state of Massachusetts. Mark Region holds all corporate offices…
    The Massachusetts Secretary of State’s database also lists another corporation with Mark Region as an officer, called Sphereplane, Inc, which was registered in 2004. According to its articles of organization, it’s also a film production company. Its big outing, apparently, was something called Medium Waves, which looks to have had a rather similar aesthetic to After the Last Season. Region had a partner in the Sphereplane stuff named Chheang Chhun, who is listed by the Massachusetts Secretary of State as having been involved in at least one other film production company, but has no presence whatsover in google or imdb.

    I then looked up the properties listed as addresses for both Region and Index Square in the massachusetts land registry, and discovered that they are both owned by Sean C. Chhun, aka Sean Chheang Chhun, the partner from Sphereplane.

    Oh, and I probably could have saved myself a lot of keystrokes last night if I’d thought to look in the U.S. Copyright Database.

    If you look up Chheang Chhun there, you’ll find that the guy’s written quite a number of screenplays and things, and that Mark Region is his pseudonym.

    1. Thanks for the detective work, LRob. I thought Kuras was probably Region too.

      If this is all correct, then I don’t think Chhun should be using his writing pseudonym on official corporate documents. That, or he shouldn’t be using the name of his business partner as his writing/directing alter-ego. Nothing is simple with this guy, that’s for sure.

  3. You know, I’m willing to give micro-budget film-making a lot of leeway.

    This movie makes no sense. I don’t mean the story doesn’t make sense, it almost does. I mean the movie as a thing that exists doesn’t make sense. I was prepared to write it off as a Producers-like scam, were it not for the sleuthery above.

    Here are the two things I liked: the sound effects and the endless cuts to absolutely nothing. Oh, and the clock radio.

    But what the hell? The movie starts with 30 minutes of barely science, only to immediately jump to fake science in the next 30, which turns out to be a dream sequence. Although it does bleed into the last 30 minutes, I guess? I’m not sure, since 5 of the last 10 minutes were dedicated to a one-sided travelogue about hot springs. Was this an advertisement for the state?

    I did give it the benefit of the doubt at the beginning, and the movie punted all my hopes straight into the river. This is a terrible movie, and not in a good way. Certainly not in a fun way, unless you’re into torturing the unwary.

    If you’re into bad CG done entertainingly, check out Philip J. Cook’s Despiser. Heck, I’d recommend the oeuvre of Todd Sheets over this.

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