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Film / After The Dark

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"You know what "apocalypse" actually means? To uncover what you haven't seen before - the way out of the dark."

After The Dark (also known as The Philosophers) is a sci-fi thriller film directed by John Huddles and released on July 7, 2013.

Its Framing Story depicts a class of philosophy students on their final day at an international high school. Their teacher, Eric Zimit (James D'Arcy), assigns them a thought experiment, the exploration of which forms the movie's main plot.

It posits that an atomic apocalypse is approaching, and there's a safety bunker that can support exactly ten people for a year — long enough to escape the disaster. Handing out cards with a different job written on each one, Zimit challenges his students to decides who lives and who dies. When the protagonist, Petra (Sophie Lowe), tries to leave, Zimit forces her to stay by threatening to drop her boyfriend's grade (as Petra does not care about her own).


A battle of wits begins between Zimit and the class...

Note: After certain reveals that occur in the finale, the movie's context is deeply changed. As a result, there will be spoilers below.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • In real life, there are several institutions that would frown upon a high school teacher committing academic extortion (as Zimit does in the opening). Why isn't this acknowledged? Because then there'd be no plot, that's why.
    • Each of the three scenarios contains these to different degrees, since they are just abstracted mental exercises. And then there is Chips' own story, which goes into the comedic spectrum of breaks from reality.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: The second scenario explicitly expects the survivors to achieve at least one pregnancy early on and deliver the baby before they leave the bunker. This turns out to be far more problematic than it sounds.
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  • After the End: After a world-altering atomic apocalypse, to be more specific; although the students do most of their surviving in a bunker with everything laid out for them.
  • Ambiguous Ending: In regards to Zimit at least: Petra comforts him about their breakup and thanks him for being a good teacher and it seems like there's still hope for him, but then he goes up to his home and contemplates shooting himself. We never see if he does it or not.
  • Apocalypse How: The apocalypse in the thought experiment is atomic in nature, with a Planetary scope note  and a Societal Collapse-level severity.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Petra gives one to Zimit near the end:
    Petra: Being smart isn't everything. Has it done for you just what you hoped?
  • Attempted Rape: Zimit tries to force himself on Bonnie in the second scenario. Jack saves her, but loses the bunker.
  • Bad Ending: Every iteration but the last ends with everyone dead. Even so, there are some students who want to try again.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Omosedé's US Senator as her secondary trait is this — she would have become first female chief justice of the Supreme Court and the greatest jurist of her generation, world-wide, if the apocalypse hadn't happened. This further adds to her valuable leadership and negotiation skills.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: In the final iteration, Zimit tries to hold the students at gunpoint for a spot in the bunker, only for James to point a carbine right back. When Zimit says he's bluffing and that he won't shoot because he's a pacifist, James pulls the charging handle and says that he'll make an exception.
  • Because I Said So: The way how the experiment goes is rather... peculiar. Originally, Zimit is in full control, because nobody fully realises their creative input into the scenarios and he railroads them as he pleases. Eventually more and more students start playing along, actively rewriting the reality of the scenario. This culminates with things like Bonnie "remembering" events from previous scenarios or the group summoning the rocket.
  • Big Red Button: On the equally comical rocket.
  • Birds of a Feather: Petra and Zimit are both gifted intellectuals with a talent for manipulating people — and because of this, they are attracted to each other. This is why Zimit is unable to understand her motivations for breaking up with him.
  • Black Comedy: The various, comically exaggerated deaths of other male members from Chips' group.
  • Bland-Name Product: The labels of the containers inside the bunker are either blank or covered in gibberish.
  • Book Dumb: James is not as academically gifted as the rest of the students, which is why Zimit looks down on him.
  • Book-Ends: The first "useless" candidate for the bunkers, the poet, is shot in the head by Zimit in the first thought experiment. By the end, when he threatens to shoot James and Petra, all of the bunker survivors line up in their defense, and at the very end, right in front of Zimit, is the poet again.
  • Brick Joke: "Is philosophy to life what masturbation is to sex?"
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Once second trait of each character is revealed, many of them turn into this trope... or suddenly became completely useless or even a liability.
  • Butt-Monkey: Andy's character is basically an in-universe chew toy for anything bad happening. And his secondary trait (a rare genetic disorder) only further cements it.
  • Cabin Fever: Both in the first and second scenarios, survivors suffer from this. In the second iteration, it's made worse by the stressful conditions and non-stop hail of bombs. The third scenario is intentionally designed to avoid this problem, but in turn has its own issues.
  • Camp Straight: Chips.
  • Closet Key: Could also be a Coming-Out Story when Parker comes out so Jack won't be the only gay man in the third scenario.
  • Cold Equation: There are twenty-one of you, but the bunker can only fit 10. Who do you let in based on how useful their skillsets are for survival, and who do you leave to die a death by radiation?
  • Cosy Catastrophe: The third scenario. Justified, since no bombs fell at all in the end. Also, even without that part, they've intentionally organized their stay in the bunker as the most enjoyable experience possible, rather than stressing over long-term survival or maintaining the human race.
  • Crazy Survivalist: In the third scenario, Zimit survives outside of the bunker and turns into one of these over the course of the year.
  • Cunning Linguist: Utami's character, the opera singer, as her secondary trait also knows seven different languages.
  • A Degree in Useless:
    • Students who specialize in music, literature, and other liberal arts are deemed less fit for survival compared to the students who specialize in STEM. Until the third iteration, where Petra specifically chooses those who weren't selected for the other runs and points out their short lives were filled with fun and creativity.
    • Vivian's Zoologist is made into this by circumstances — with no animal life surviving nearby, her skills are utterly useless. She's left out of the bunker group in all three scenarios.
  • Death by Pragmatism: In the first scenario, Zimit is ultimately not allowed to enter the bunker, since everyone is scared of him just gunning down the voted out without batting an eye. He spends his final hours in front of the entrance, succumbing to radiation poisoning. In the second scenario, when he tries to set up a quasi-harem to get at least one pregnancy going, he ends up in a fight that leads to his demise and destruction of the bunker.
  • Decoy Protagonist: No, James is not going to stay in focus for long.
  • Dirty Coward: Zimit could have just asked Petra "Why did you choose James over me?" instead of disguising the question as a pointlessly hurtful show of dominance. It's implied that he didn't ask her directly because he was afraid she might be right to have done so.
  • Driven to Suicide: Zimit certainly considers this, but we don't find out if he actually does it or not.
  • Easily Forgiven: Even when it comes out that Zimit set the whole experiment up essentially for the purpose of humiliating James and satisfying his own ego, Petra doesn't show any signs of holding it against him. In fact, she actually lets him down rather easily and even tells him he's "a good teacher" at the end.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Zimit (logic) vs. Petra and the rest of the class (emotions). Zimit looks down on those assigned A Degree in Useless and uses his "logic" to mentally torment the kids.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Zimit seems genuinely confused as to why Petra, intelligent as she is, would choose to act on anything other than pure logic. Hence his failure to understand why she would choose to be with James rather than him. He also seems to have trouble grasping that she didn't mean it as a criticism of him. He also doesn't understand the concept of equality between people. Petra's actions in the third scenario are a concerted effort to teach him humility.
  • Evil Counterpart: Zimit is Petra's.
  • Evil Mentor: Invoked toward Zimit, as James eventually calls him out on the exercise not being in philosophical matters, but rather about being a ruthless jerk.
  • Fatal Flaw: For Petra, it's her tendency to act on emotion rather than think things through. This is best seen in the first scenario, when her ploy to exclude Zimit from the bunker (because she was horrified by him shooting the students who'd been voted out) results in the remaining survivors dying when they run out of food and oxygen. For Zimit, it's his ego and his inability to grasp that intelligence isn't the only valuable quality that a person can have.
  • Flat Character: Large section of the students are left with barely any screen time and even fewer spoken lines. They end up underdeveloped both as students and their in-scenario characters. This heavily undermines the emotional impact of the third scenario, as most of those people never were picked prior, so there is no attachment to them.
  • Fly Or Die: Zimit calls this trope out by name at the beginning of the film.
  • Foreshadowing: The thought experiments mentioned at the beginning all inform later actions. The Ignorance Bliss experiment represents Petra finding out about James's irrational fears and actions, the Train dilemma is the choice of shooting or leaving out certain people, the Infinite Monkeys experiment is Chips with the girls on his island, the Cave is Zimit finding out how Petra really feels. Also, the existence of the code as a real thing is shown early on.
  • GMPC: Zimit's character during each scenario has various traits and powers that greatly exceed everyone's else, all while in the same time he's narrating the whole thing and deciding on outcomes.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: A handful of secondary traits given to characters in the second scenario reduce their chances of being voted in or outright make them a threat.
    • Georgina's Doctor was exposed to the ebola virus a week earlier and might or might not be infected. Nobody is willing to take the chance.
    • Andy's Electrician is given an extremely rare genetic disease that will eventually ossify his entire body.
    • Chips' Carpenter is sterile — not that big of a problem, unless you remember their job is to produce a baby. In the third scenario, he decides to see for himself if that's complete sterility, or he's just sub-sterile. With six smoking hot girls on a tropical island.
    • Poppie's Psychotherapist is a more severe case — she definitely can't have children, as she had a hysterectomy.
    • Utami's Opera Singer might be a Cunning Linguist, but will also develop a non-lethal throat cancer, which will turn her mute. This is a fake liability, since she can still write and communicate in other ways.
  • The Generic Guy: James has no personality beyond being nice and no defining characteristics whatsoever. In fact, his appointed character, with just two simple traits, has more going for him than the student himself.
  • Go Through Me: As Zimit has only one bullet left, the entire group stands between him and James to protect the latter. With Toby the Poet at the front.
  • Granola Girl: Vivian, the zoologist, is given this as her secondary trait. It makes her even more useless to the group.
  • The Hedonist: What the third scenario boils down into — rather than trying to survive, it's better to go out with a bang and enjoy it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the third scenario, Petra demands that someone else take her spot in the shelter.
    "I didn't ask to lead so I could save myself."
  • A House Divided: The second scenario adds a lot of additional, highly stressful elements, which mounts up tension in no time. Eventually, a fight breaks out and leads to everyone dying.
  • Hypocrite: Zimit spends the entire movie justifying his callousness with logic and mocking the other students for their emotional reactions to the experiment, yet he initiated the experiment solely because of a childish need to prove himself superior to James. This is lampshaded by Petra.
  • I Know You Know I Know: During the first scenario, Georgina assumes the final note from Zimit about the exit code was just a type of a mind game to torment them for the incoming year. She's wrong.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Zimit outright threatens Petra to lower James's grade if she's going to leave the class.
  • If I Can't Have You...: ... then everyone in the bunker dies during the second scenario.
  • Imagine Spot: The entire premise of the movie is students doing a Cold Equation exercise and imagining going through it.
  • Improvised Weapon. A pencil is used in second scenario for a fatal stab. Notably, this film predates John Wick by a year.
  • Informed Ability:
    • Petra is repeatedly stated to be the best logical thinker of the student body and has the highest grade possible. Throughout the film, she does little to demonstrate exactly why this is, instead preferring to completely disregard logic in favour of emotional thinking and thus completely negating the purpose of the thought-experiments being presented. Of course, the fact that she and Zimit had a relationship prior might have something to do with him flattering her in such a way, as well as giving the potential explanation that she's deliberately being illogical throughout the film to get back at him.
    • The various skills and traits assigned to different students are obviously this, mostly operating as their bargain chips rather than actual abilities to use during the simulation. Justified, since the whole experiment isn't about them applying said skills, but doing a Cold Equation.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The reasoning presented for why a gay farmer is useless to the population of the bunker. Instantly called out by everyone in the room, as they point out he still has a functional organ, so all it takes is for him to Lie Back and Think of England. And plant some veggies after that.
  • Insistent Terminology: Everyone keeps calling it a "bunker". A bunker is a defensive military fortification. What it really is is a fallout shelter.
  • Ironic Echo: "Better three hours too early than one minute too late." First said when James is late to class, then to Zimit when he's at the bunker in the first scenario.
  • Irony: Eric Zimit is a philosophy professor who constantly complains about poets and artists being useless and having no practical value. This lampshades how bloated his own ego is.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: In third scenario, not only does Petra steal the gun from Zimit, but she pre-emptively unloads it, knowing he would start to fire the moment he's given the gun back.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Zimit spends most of the movie being a bona fide prick, but he is correct when he points out that the students could have avoided the mass deaths suffered in the first scenario if they had not acted rashly based on their emotional responses to him executing the students who were voted out. Him pointing out various flaws of their choices and decisions later on is also to the point, as far as set parameters (survive apocalypse, repopulate the world and rebuild civilisation) are concerned.
  • Landmark of Lore: Invoked in-universe. The students keep asking why each time their bunker is next to some important, recognisable site, to which Zimit replies "Why not?".
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: In the second scenario, when Zimit starts to talk about increasing chances for pregnancy, Bonnie calls him back on this by explaining just how insane the whole plan is and why she's not going to participate in his harem.
  • Living Is More Than Surviving: The third scenario. The students may be stranded in a secluded island with little hope of escape, but since Petra chose those with specializations in the arts and humanities (unlike the STEM-and-survival-focused previous iterations), they lived short lives of joy and laughter instead of miserable lives that were focused on survival.
  • Loophole Abuse: The students find different, creative ways to work around the limitations of the scenario. This is most prominent in the third scenario, as it goes completely Off the Rails due to their collective effort.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Chips is revealed as one, as his story about a year outside the bunker quickly turns into a tongue-in-cheek sexual fantasy.
  • Love Triangle: James, Petra, and Zimit, who she had an affair with. James never realizes it.
  • MacGyvering: When you are a structural engineer with a secondary degree in electronics, there is nothing really preventing you from collecting spare parts around the bunker and building a harp from them.
  • Mercy Kill: How Zimit justifies shooting the students who weren't selected in the first iteration; it was that or die a slow death by radiation.
  • Mood Whiplash: After three emotionally wrenching iterations, a lot of bitterness between characters and a general sour mood for most of the movie, Chips's own experiment is revealed and it involves imagining himself as the last male on Earth on a tropical island with six willing females, all sold as pure comedy.
  • Most Common Super Power: Gender-flipped. In the second scenario, Nelson, the Nice Guy cleaner, is taken in, simply because he's a man and can reproduce without issues.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In Chips's separate experiment, all the ladies get this treatment, that being the whole point of it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In the first scenario, Petra is constantly tormented over the fact she talked the group into leaving Zimit behind and regularly walks to the front doors to check his body. She's even more beat down when one day a wild dog starts to mangle the carcass.
  • Nice Guy: Nelson's House Keeper is an exaggeration, since "the angels would bow their heads as he walked through the gates of Heaven, if Heaven exists". He gets his spot in the bunker for unrelated reasons.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Petra makes James trick Zimit into staying out of the bunker in the first scenario, but this leads to everyone dying horribly due to Zimit having the exit codes. Arguably this is the worst scenario.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: If Zimit had just accepted his breakup with Petra, he could have walked away with nothing but bruised pride. Instead, he tries to fight her decision and ends up even more broken than before, knowing that the egotism he justifies his entire life by has been decisively shattered and that Petra will live a happy, fulfilling life without him.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: In the first iteration, where Andy succumbs to a brain aneurysm and the others eat him to survive.
  • Not Completely Useless:
    • When in the first scenario characters are given just their profession, some of them are clearly worthless for survival. In the second scenario, they all have a second trait added, which in case of few greatly increases their importance for the group.
    • The inhabitants of the bunker in the third scenario are at first glance picked for purely emotional reasons. However, the group still ends up consisting of a construction and electrical engineer, a chemist with superb genes and absurd life expectancy, an orthopedic surgeon (who didn't contract Ebola before being locked inside), a literal genius with IQ of 200, a talented linguist and someone who can craft clothes from just about anything, including bamboo. Not bad at all.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Used few times:
    • The switcheroo with the magic box is shown again, this time with a nice cut inside the box to see what really happened.
    • Petra stealing the gun from Zimit in third scenario, which at first looked like just a simple meeting with him.
    • Zig-Zagged when Jack recalls how Chips tricked Petra into the bunker. First we are given that scene, from Jack's retelling, following what Jack is saying. Only to cut to Chips explaining this is not what really happened... and the scene plays once more, this time from Chips's perspective.
  • Platonic Cave: Discussed. Zimit compares James to the observer-of-shadows, as a way of insulting James' intelligence. The ending depicts Zimit as equally blind, because his egoistical disdain for emotions means he cannot understand James and Petra's love — or the reason why it angers him so much.
  • Psycho Party Member: What everyone assumes about Zimit in the first scenario after he guns down characters not let into the bunker. So they set him up to end up locked outside.
  • Purple Prose: When left for too long alone with narration, both Zimit and Petra start talking in progressively more verbose and oratory manner. Especially annoying in her case due to delivering her lines flatly.
  • The Rain Man: Implied to be the case with Russell, the harpist, whose second trait is being autistic. As the scenario plays out, it just means he's really focused on playing the harp, rather than being a dysfunctional liability to the group.
  • Reality Ensues: Zig-Zagged with Acceptable Breaks from Reality. Numerous decisions, traits and situations have their expected, real-life results.
    • The Bad Ending of each simulation happens due to the composition of the group, as it's always related to the lack of a specific person to guarantee survival: first they don't have a code to get out, then they don't have a therapist to help with the mounting tension and ultimately they have nobody to provide food once their supply is gone.
    • You are a ruthless pragmatist that guns down people while quoting Mercy Kill? Congrats, you won't be let inside, you psycho. This was an intentional bait on Zimit side.
    • Being forced to produce a baby with a random partner while locked inside a small space and having a constant, audible atomic bombardment outside will ruin the mood.
    • Untreatable diseases and mental disorders, even if not contagious and non-lethal, are a serious liability and won't win any favours.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Mitzie's Wine Auctioneer has a genius-level IQ of 200... but as instantly pointed out by various students, she still doesn't have any practical or theoretical skills and thus her intelligence doesn't have any weight to it.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: What the poet turns out to be in his only shown recitation. The scene is played absolutely serious and with a lot of fanfare, but the poem is just pathetically bad.
  • Riddle for the Ages: We never learn what was Yoshiko's secondary trait, we just know she was the astronaut.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: How Zimit reacts when the students react in ways he disapproves of to the rules he sets — he sets up a scenario where all of them die.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The third scenario pits the students' idea that it is better to live short lives filled with aesthetic beauty against the teacher's suggestion that it is best to live long lives trying to use practical skills to survive efficiently.
  • Rule of Three: The simulation is run thrice, with the students drastically changing the rules in the third.
  • Running Gag: Toby, "the poet", gets repeatedly gunned down in each scenario without even finishing reading his card. Eventually becomes predictable in-universe and used against Zimit.
  • Scenery Porn: Indonesia is beautiful and the film reminds us of the fact in every outdoors shot.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Plum's Hedge-Fund Manager gets a spot in the second scenario based on the fact she's carrying around bullion and precious stones worth a few million and within the conditions of the scenario, they will retain their value once they leave the bunker. Oh, and she can have babies.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Petra sees what Zimit is trying to do to her and tries to leave the classroom early. Zimit stops her by threatening to drop James' grade.
  • The Social Darwinist: Most of arguments about "logic" from Zimit boil down to survival of the fittest and eradication of weakness. And he's very keen on Jerk Justifications, both in and out of the scenarios.
  • Straight Gay: Jack, to the point Bonnie is so surprised she thinks he's joking. Apparently everyone else knew already, or at least both James and Zimit knew, as they included it into the scenario.
  • Straw Vulcan: Zimit proclaims himself a logician, and uses his twisted, sadistic 'logic' to browbeat his students into compliance.
  • Super Breeding Program: Discussed and ultimately subverted. In the second scenario their goal is to simply deliver a healthy baby, not dabble in eugenics or any other silliness.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: It's pretty clear at the end that, in spite of everything, Petra still cares for Zimit and holds him in high regard as a teacher. She even tries to make him feel better about their breakup, telling him that it wasn't meant to take anything away from him as a person.
  • The Stoic: Petra shows scarcely any emotion throughout the entire movie. Depending on your interpretation of her character, this is either an expression of her disdain for Zimit's cruelty, or one hell of an emotional façade.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: When Kavi pairs off the survivors in the second scenario (with the specific goal of at least one girl conceiving), Petra ends up paired with Zimit. Zimit and Petra had one in real life, but she broke it off. Zimit took it personally and used the exercise as retaliation. He also set up the entire second scenario specifically to have an imaginative sex with Petra.
  • Taking You with Me: The final result of the second scenario is the dying Zimit getting to the doors and opening them, instantly killing rest of the survivors.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Despite fatally wounding Zimit in the second scenario during a struggle, nobody is eager to actually kill him. Which leads to him reaching the entrance and opening the doors out of spite, wiping out everyone inside the bunker.
  • Time Passes Montage: Used during all three scenarios to compress the year inside:
    • In the first scenario, it consists of various activities the characters do, while Petra keeps walking to the door and watches the progressively decomposing body of Zimit outside, with the camera lingering on it in fast-forward.
    • In the second scenario, it consists of everyone trying to make a baby, with increasing tension and even worse morale as time goes.
    • In the third scenario, it's everyone having a good time and finding applications for their skills and traits.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The film's advertising portrayed it as a post-apocalyptic thriller, placing emphasis on the bunker scenarios. The actual movie focuses on Petra and Zimit's debate about elitism and jealousy, which is reflected through their manipulation of the students. The scenarios are only vehicles for their respective arguments.
  • Tranquil Fury: How Bonnie delivers her reasoning why she's not going to be coerced into a gang-bang rape. Given her character in-story is the only qualified combatant, her threat has additional weight.
  • Troll: Possible interpretation of Petra's decisions in the third scenario. Rather than playing by the rules, she breaks almost all of them, bends the remaining ones out of shape and does everything she can to rub Zimit the wrong way and derail his entire exercise into a complete wreck.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: When he's let into the bunker, Zimit slowly pushes the group into doing his will and when they protest or go against it, he's not above gunning them down and intimidating the rest.
  • Undying Loyalty: James to Petra. Even in the experiment's second iteration — where he's assigned the detail of being gay — he insists that he still loves her emotionally.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Each time Zimit murders someone or assisted suicide is performed, it's called "asking for help".
  • Villainous BSoD: As Petra continually disproves Zimit's philosophy, showing that traits other than pure intelligence are important, he becomes more and more disillusioned.
  • Wise Beyond Her Years: Petra. This is what attracted Zimit to her as a romantic partner.
  • With This Herring: The randomized traits given to the various characters work like this — they can only select 10 out of 21 and they aren't made equal at all. With each scenario, more and more "useless" people get inside the bunker due to circumstances, secondary traits or just thanks to their gender, regardless of their basic "value".
  • Worthy Opponent: This trope drives Zimit's conflict with Petra — he wants to hurt her for leaving him, but he also wants her validation, because he considers her an intellectual equal.


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