Night Visions – After Life (08/02/01)

nvafterlife05Michael Doyle (Randy Quaid) is lying in a casket with his eyes wide open.  He can’t be laying in the casket because he is dead.

The mortician says his eyes keep popping open.  Since this is supposed to be a closed-casket service, he isn’t too worried about that.  His assistant does that thing characters always do on TV — the thing where they move their whole hand down the face of the corpse, and afterward the eyes are closed.  I’ve always been pretty dubious of that. Does the hand really get down in those eye sockets?  Wouldn’t it be much simpler to do the 2-finger method?

It seems to work, at least for a while.  As his daughter Kaitlin is saying a few dull, dull words at his service, the casket begins to rock.  A few moments later, Doyle flips open the lid, sits up in the casket, and unsteadily climbs out.

nvafterlife09His daughter is thrilled to see him and gives him a big hug.  His wife Natalie just seems stunned, or maybe she had already used his insurance for a deposit on a Beemer [1]. BTW, kudos for him getting out to reveal a backless suit jacket.  Is that how corpses are buried?  What would be the reason?  Doesn’t the family supply the suit?  By that logic, why would he have pants at all?  But it just feels right.  Ezra Thornberry would be proud.

Natalie tells him this has given them a 2nd chance, and that she regrets that they were about to separate.  He responds, “When I look at you, all I can see is the rotting flesh that is to come.”  Hey, pal — you were the one buried without the benefit of formaldehyde!

At their first post-funeral family dinner, Doyle’s daughter is thrilled that her prayers were answered.  She planned the meal with all his favorites.  Unfortunately, when he takes a bite, he gags.  Illustrating the general ineptness of this series, a point is made twice about the amount of garlic in the meal.  Any genre fan would immediately interpret his reaction to the garlicky meal as indicating he was a vampire.  Yet, there is no indication of vampirism before or after.  Doyle even says his reaction is because the food tastes like dirt.  I like that even though I could quibble that this is also off-base because he was never actually put in the ground.  Bringing garlic into the scene, however, just muddles the story.  Geez, the previous scene was an extended shot of him in a mirror.  No one is thinking vampire!

nvafterlife03Doyle just asks to left alone and goes out on the balcony to stare out at the city.  After the gals go to sleep, he cuts up pictures, magazines, and wallpaper to make a collage of himself standing in a psychedelic landscape.  When his daughter wakes up, he finally gets animated, telling her that is where he went when he died.  Much like Season Six Buffy, he doesn’t understand why he was brought back from this paradise.

Doyle finally concludes that he was brought back from the dead to take Kaitlin back with him.  To illustrate this, he adds a picture of her to the collage.  The lousy quality of the YouTube video might be to blame, but the picture he uses looks much more like Natalie than Kaitlin.  Doyle attempts to accomplish this by dragging his terrified daughter out onto the balcony.  He pulls her up on the parapet of the building and they do a little cha cha as she screams in terror.

I have no particular fear of heights, but this scene really grabbed me.  Whether it was Kaitlin’s performance, or Doyle’s bizarre actions, it truly was suspenseful.  The series seems a little afraid to commit, so not surprisingly, Kaitlin is saved by her mother and Doyle falls to his 2nd death.

nvafterlife04They tried something strange with his fall.  It is one of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen, but I’m not sure if it might not have been intentional.  It begins with him looking 2-dimensional like the picture in his collage, but it is a different pose (more of the series’ lack of focus — why use that effect and a different pose?).  Then it becomes a really unnatural green-screen.  They could have done more to tie this to the collage, but really it seemed pointless as it was.

There is a sort of twist at the end.  It is an interesting cap to the story, but lacks any sort of shock, irony or relevance to the episode’s main theme.

Despite the bitching and moaning (mine, I mean), I did enjoy it.  Seeing a young, healthy Randy Quaid was nice, and his daughter was good.  Just some poor choices hold the episode back from living up to their performances.


  • [1] Technically Beemer refers to a motorcycle.  The term for a BMW automobile is Bimmer.
  • Natalie (Susan Gibney) played Leah Brahms on Star Trek TNG.
  • Susan Gibney is fine as Natalie, but her daughter is really effective in some scenes.  Strangely, even though she seems to be about 14, she dresses like a 1980’s MBA.
  • OK, this was really only true on the close-ups, but seriously, she did wear the same clothes for days.

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