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After Death review – swirly-whirly visions of post-demise Jesus, heaven and hell

<span>Slippery rhetoric … After Death.</span><span>Photograph: PR</span>
Slippery rhetoric … After Death.Photograph: PR

Here is an American-made documentary that is part of the rising flood of faith-based movies; it contains people recounting visions of an afterlife they experienced while technically dead. Despite being a documentary, it’s little different from feature narrative films such as QAnon-adjacent child-trafficking conspiracy-fest Sound of Freedom or the upcoming hagiography Cabrini, both of which involved After Death’s producers Angel Studios.

Despite interviewees’ conviction that their souls left their bodies and glimpsed another world, we aren’t presented with any proof – sure, the film-makers deploy lots of onscreen graphics in order to reassure us of their subjects’ bona fides, but solemn music, moody lighting and dramatic re-creations don’t just make things magically factual. Or even especially persuasive.

It is also perhaps significant that the interviewees here – who make airy generalisations about how these experiences happen all over the world to people who follow many different faiths – are mostly all white, American and steeped in Christianity. There’s one woman (Pam Reynolds, seen in archive footage), but the bulk of them are men. These include former pilot Dale Black, who claims to have seen his own dead body after an air crash, car accident survivor Don Piper and the aptly named Howard Storm, who not only saw both heaven and hell but got an audience with Jesus himself (a ghostly penumbra in the film’s many trippy animations).

As one medical man notes, all these experiences are subjective; they are evidence, but not actual proof, that interviewees aren’t experiencing delusions. But, he notes ominously, if there’s enough evidence, maybe that’s as good as proof! Yeah, maybe. Or maybe not. The rhetoric here is slippery as a Pentecostal snake bathed in holy snake oil, to the point where you almost have to admire the film-makers’ tenacity – especially when it comes to swirly-whirly visual effects showing near-abstract pearly gates and deities presenting themselves as rays of luminosity, like celestial lightbulbs.

• After Death is on digital platforms from 11 March.