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AFTER DEATH (2023) review

October 27, 2023


written by: Stephen Gray
produced by: Guy Guliano, Jens Jacob, Jason Pamer & Daniel Straub
directed by: Stephen Gray and Chris Radtke
rating: not rated
runtime: 103 min. 
U.S. release date: October 27, 2023


“After Death” is a documentary that isn’t straightforward enough to call itself “After Life”, which is odd, considering it’s about the afterlife. To be honest, calling this a documentary feels generous. It’s not as if any of the handful of talking heads who’ve admitted to coming back from being clinically dead can show proof of what they’ve seen. The approach feels both generic and staged. Directed by Stephen Gray and Chris Radtke, the movie feels more like one of those long infomercials that you get hooked into viewing while doom-scrolling at 3am…or maybe that’s just me?

How fitting that this documentary is coming from Angel Studios, the same faith-based studio that brought this past summer’s unexpected hit, “Sound of Freedom”. That controversial movie is likely to become the highest grossing independent film of 2023. While “After Death” isn’t getting the same marketing push as that child-trafficking thriller, it’s a safe bet that whoever was on board with “Sound of Freedom” is aware of this movie and is likely the target audience for this.



Throughout “After Death” we hear from a handful of people who share how they have floated over a crash site or a river and could see their seemingly dead bodies. Some of them had even flatlined and came back. All of these are what is called NDE (Near Death Experiences) from plane crashes, drownings, attempted suicides, and more. Such detailed and descriptive experiences have been as common as UFO or ghost sitings for decades, but the difference is these stories of the afterlife are playing directly to the Christian belief that God and Jesus are waiting for you once your pulse dies.

What’s odd is how alike these NDE descriptions are. I’m well aware that we as humans often experience much of the same things in life, but we’re also different enough that there should be differences at least in some of these encounters. The various talking head participants here all confirm that either God and Heaven or Demons and Hell were involved in their dramatic experience. The directors are determined not to miss a beat as they match the fabricated visuals or live-action re-enactments on display with swelling music from composer Hannah Parrott. Of course, many of these participants were likely found because they’ve written best-selling memoirs about their experiences, which is probably why it’s so easy for them to share what they believe transpired. Clearly, they’ve had practice.

Dr. Mary Neal, an ortho-spine surgeon, shares what she saw and felt after she drowned while she and her husband were on a kayaking trip. She sounds quite convincing and explains how she was “being held by Christ” – but, one can likely only refer to Christ if they’ve already believed in the Son of God. I’m not sure why it is so imperative for believers to make a documentary about what transpires after you die if they already believe in it. They might as well make a documentary supporting why their faith is real, but how would that be accomplished when the Bible clearly says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).

Another guy shares that while he was on the operating table, he too went sailing out into a colorful celestial unknown, claiming God was guiding him with a light and “inside the light was life and inside that life was love”. Seeing “a light” has often been a description of those who have flatlined in the operating room and miraculously lived to tell about it. I don’t doubt there are miracles in life, I just don’t believe that Christian faith has a monopoly on those miracles. Some things are just miraculous in and of itself…why do we need to assign spirituality or religion to it?



We also hear from Don Piper, an ordained minister who wrote “90 Minutes in Heaven” (which was adapted into a 2015 movie where he was played by Hayden Christensen), who goes on and on about his NDE. He then goes on to share that his wife and kids left him, “they think I’m a crazy man” and, well, that’s understandable. There are other authors like Piper in “After Death” such as Dr. Jeffrey Long (Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences), Steve Kang (From Hell to Heaven: Buddhism to Christianity through the Gospel of Jesus and a Near Death Experience), John Burke (Imagine Heaven and founding pastor of Gateway Church Austin), Anita Onarecker Wood (Divine Appointment: Our Journey to the Bridge), and Eva Piper (A Walk Through the Dark), and all of them have the same things to say – as if they all get together on a Zoom meeting to align their stories.

As there should be in such a documentary, there is also a skeptic included in “After Death”. Michael Sabom is a former cardiologist who shares what are at first his own misgivings about all this. Yet as the movie continues, he seems to flip-flop on his findings. As it turns out, he wound up writing two books about NDE, Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation (1982) and Light & Death: One Doctor’s Fascinating Account of Near-Death Experiences (1998) with hundreds of actual accounts contributing to his work. So, we only really have one skeptic here and even then he’s ultimately not a very reliable one. Makes sense considering the agenda of “After Death” is one of religious propaganda.

No doubt, some viewers will readily accept all that “After Death” has to offer. They are likely believers who have already believed such stories and may even have their own to add.

I used to be curious about what comes after death, but I’ve concluded that I don’t really care anymore. I know it’s inevitable, but I also know what matters more is how we live our lives while we are alive. I’d be much more interested in a movie called “Before Death”.

It’s hard to say what the goal of such a movie is. Is the purpose to get viewers interested in getting their souls saved before they croak? If so, I doubt this one documentary would do the trick.

Like “Sound of Freedom” this movie doesn’t end during or after the end credits. The directors appear on screen just as actor Jim Caviezel did in the previous movie, to share a QR Code for their “Pay It Forward” campaign. They’re basically saying “Death is not the end, so click on this QR Code and buy some movie tickets or grab some free ones”.




One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim Bowles permalink
    November 11, 2023 12:16 pm

    Was terribly disappointed in this. The message this file prompted us heresy, showing all faiths lead to God, instead of only acceptance of Christ, and repentance and confession of sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the father, except through me.” It showed people going to hell, and then crying out to God from hell and brought to heaven. All is contrary to the bible. “it is appointed to man once to die, and then the judgement.” If you believe the bible, stay away from this universalist, train wreck of distortions and lies.

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