Today’s film recommendation comes from Ryan Fleming (again), who watches (and makes) more post-apocalyptic movies than I do. AFTERMATH is something of an oddity. It has all the trappings of your typical low-budget, end of the world movie, yet there’s something about its approach, its nihilistic outlook, that sucks you in and drags you along. As usual, here’s a synopsis, a trailer, and some thoughts.
In a post-World War III nuclear apocalypse, nine strangers must band together to try to defend themselves against massive radiation, attacking refugees, and each other.
You know what? This is actually pretty good. It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but AFTERMATH does an excellent job of conveying the hopelessness of survival after a nuclear attack, particularly given the obvious constraints of being a low-budget indie movie.
The film certainly looks the part. It’s well filmed, with a suitably washed-out colour palette. The pacing is also good and it doesn’t outstay its welcome: the thirty or so days covered by the story progresses quickly and evenly. That’s a real positive, as often in movies like this there’s an uneven focus on the immediate after-effects of the attack and the inevitable end of the story (or, more accurately, the characters). A decent cast give strong performances across the board including, surprisingly, Edward Furlong.
There are a couple of aspects of AFTERMATH which really struck me, and which are why I’m keen to recommend the movie to you.
Without ever feeling forced or contrived, this film has something of the air of a classic zombie movie about it, and I mean that in a good way. In his original recommendation to me, Ryan mentioned that something about AFTERMATH (other than the title!) reminded him of AUTUMN, and I get that. There’s the same isolated farmhouse location, only with radiation-scarred neighbours instead of reanimated corpses. In AUTUMN, the dead are attracted to the living simply because they’re the only things left in the desolate, post-infection world which are visible and which make any noise, and that’s an idea which is used to great effect in AFTERMATH. The survivors’ stronghold in the basement of a house – which, in reality, is little better than being out in the open – and yet they find themselves repeatedly under attack. Unfortunately, this results in a fairly uninspired climax to the film (the tension of which is dissipated by some strange editing choices), but that’s okay because AFTERMATH is about the journey, not the destination (please pardon the cliché).
But for me, what sets this film apart is its tone of grim hopelessness. It’s not quite up there on the THREADS scale, but it certainly pulls no punches. From the moment the bombs explode you know the characters are doomed. There’s no sugar coating. There’s no respite. There’s no last-minute reprise. And for that reason, I whole-heartedly recommend you give AFTERMATH a watch. You can get it from all the usual outlets or stream it on Amazon Prime if you’re a member.
And on the subject of THREADS… If you’re in the UK on 2 December and are in or around Halifax, you may be interested to know there’s a screening of the film at Square Chapel Arts, followed by a Q&A with one of the actors, Reece Dinsdale. Tickets are a very reasonable £8 and are available here. I’ve been talking with friends about the film a lot recently, and from their reactions on their first viewing, I know it’s lost none of its power over the years. I’ll be making the trip to Halifax in December, and I’m already bracing myself for the impact of watching it again…