There are so many words I never thought I would use together, much less in a film review. Crystal mushroom dildos, gooey sentient alien face holes, third eye vaginas(not to be confused with Third Eye Blind, although that would work here as well), and erotic surrealism, just to name a few phrases. If you have seen any of Bertrand Mandico’s previous work, you know what to expect, but for those unaware, it is unbelievable. He is an artist in every sense of the word. As part of the Brooklyn Horror Film Fest, After Blue stands alone. It is a uniquely strange experience like nothing else at the festival. It might also be the most kaleidoscopically sexual thing I’ve ever seen.
After Blue wants you to bathe in the weirdness. It is unabashedly unique and weird as fuck. I can’t stress enough the bizarre assault on your senses this film brings. The sets are odd, the characters even odder, and the storyline almost incoherent. There is a throughline of erotic innocence and feminine urging that keeps things from teetering too exploitive. That could have been a real problem for such subject matter and overtly metaphorical story points. For God’s sake, the main villain is named Kate Bush, and women masturbate with guns named after famous fashion designers. I’m all for sexual freedom, but I’m not going to masturbate with or without a gun right in front of my Mom.
After Blue is not a subtle film. Our heroine is Roxy, nicknamed Toxic, which kind of fits. The Lolita-esque girl flits seamlessly from wide-eyed wonder to misty-eyed sexuality with the sort of speed that might give you whiplash. Roxy and her mother live in their French tribe on some future planet where Roxy’s mother works as a hairdresser. She shaves the women who all have developed excess hair running down their necks, arms, and chests. It all makes a squinty kind of sense if you lean into it.
All the women of their tribe dress like a cosplay of Native Americans and Natasha from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. As dirty and grimy as this world is, everyone cares about their fabulousness. Sexy high fashion for the post-apocalyptic queer set. They carry weapons impossibly named and indulge in very sticky, very wet kisses that can’t possibly do anything for them. When Roxy frees criminal Kate Bush from her sand prison, she unwittingly sets herself and her mother on a quest to kill Kate.
This is a decidedly queer film in every sense of the world. On a planet where all the male counterparts have died off because their hair and whiskers grew on the inside of their body(yes, you heard that right), necessity would dictate the practicality in finding love and lust wherever you could. So while the film feels indulgently nasty, there is a pulsing beat of feminist eroticism. Although it may appear like an adolescent boy’s wet dream about a sci-fi western world version of Prison Heat at first blush, it is less sticky sock and more dripping thighs.
To make sense of After Blue is pointless. It is a visual masterpiece of the weird for those ready to revel in horny debauchery for a few hours. The over two-hour runtime is excessive, but everything is in After Blue. While strange things happen to equally strange people, none of it really matters. Set design is impeccable and, quite frankly, more coherent than any storyline. Everything is either an undulating, gyrating womb, a dripping vagina, or decidedly phallic and drenched in glitter and hot pink lights. It’s gorgeous, embarrassing, and glorious.
Sculptors named Kiefer and Climax make art to transform the Lady in the Woods-style region Roxy and her mother trek too into a neon-soaked Club 54. An aggressive and cruel mistress named Sternberg keeps an artificial man with an octopus where his penis should be. Said octo-boy looks just like her husband and is controlled within an inch of his life like the poor sexbots in Ex Machina. The film is described as a sci-fi western acid trip and that only semi-describes the insanity you will see.
You can’t love or hate After Blue; it simply is. Get lost in the surreal, hallucinogenic orgasm of the place that Bertrand Mandico so lovingly builds and forget about the hows and whys. What I can say is this will be the best sci-fi western queer acid trip you will ever see. In a world filled with way too many reboots, sequels, and retcons, it’s better to be original than perfunctory, and After Blue does way more than just go through the motions. Find all our Brooklyn Horror Film Fest coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.