Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Section 3: Aftermath

S3: Aftermath

Welcome to Section3 where we go beyond the nasties and explore the horror and exploitation that the fuzz just had to get their hands on. This episode I have you a post apocalyptic story that the DPP in their infinite wisdom thought should be kept off the shelves of your local video store, Lets delve into the remains of a society destroyed by man's madness with Steve Barkett's Aftermath.

Two astronauts return from a mission only to find the world by and large abandoned after a devastating nuclear war. As they try to create some semblance of a life they encounter some small groups of survivors and find that the remnants of society are somewhat less civil than what they left behind.
After rescuing some women and children from the clutches of the brutal rapist and murderering gang leader Cutter,, Newman and his group must then fight to survive the attacks from not only the vicious gang, but from the scavenging mutants that wander the wastelands.

Aftermath is a rather old fashioned movie in many respects. Far from being something that should have been torn from the shelves of the video store it's actually a fairly decent film in some regards. Aftermath is to be fair a flawed film in many respects, some of this is budgetary, other things are more to do with its structure but essentially what we have here is a lift from Omega Man with a little bit of Mad Max thrown in. As we enter the film we find the astronauts returning to earth, the first problems come in here as we have no idea when the film is set...It seems to be futuristic but then this is contradicted by what we find on earth, which is decidedly contemporary. Near future possibly? In which case why were the Astronauts out of contact with the Earth for so long, they seem to have returned from a long distance mission, possibly a few years, during which they couldn't communicate with the earth and have been away long enough for the nuclear attack to have
died off. What we see here is some seriously post apocalyptic times. This is clearly decades after an attack, so why did the astronauts not get a message of some kind., why were they not concerned about the lack of response until they were practically about to land. It's this kind of thing that is the main weakness of the film, it's a bit lazy in it's set up and frankly is left wanting in creating the world we find.
However....Yes it is a bit haphazard, mainly in its introduction, it's also rather derivative, taking its cue from the likes of Omega Man and Mad Max, though Aftermath actually feels of the vintage of the former, what we have here is a half decent piece of sci fi action. It ventures into the last man alive territory of Omega man, though this soon becomes a small group and also in common with the Charlton Heston classic it has its deformed mutants that stalk the survivors. This last part is though a very small part of what's going on. So small a part is it in fact that it seems to have been thrown in simply to spice up or pad out the film at points where it would be otherwise lifeless or uninteresting. Given that one of the alternative titles is 'Zombie Aftermath' it's not in any way a zombie film. Even if you were to be generous and class these mutants as zombies, and even with my wide scope for the zombie mantle, theses just don't qualify, their appearance in the alternate title is very misleading as they really do figure very very low in this film.

The bad guys in this film are in actual fact a gang of rapist murdering thugs led by exploitations staple bad guy Sid Haig as the disturbingly sleazy Cutter. While Cutter is a noticeably exaggerated bad guy he does have a rather disturbing edge and he never really becomes a light hearted caricature. The things he does are really quite revolting and this is actually one of the effective elements of this film, as rough and ready as this film is it doesn't seem to take the violence lightly. Whether or not this is deliberate doesn't matter too much, the effect is that the things Cutter does feel as horrible as they should. To some degree this does lend the film a mean spirited edge when it comes to Cutters scene but given the other characters its not something that seems to be the overall intention of the film.
While Cutter is a particularly horrible character Aftermath uses the character and his despicable acts to play off against the humanity of the main character, Newman. For the over the top and terrible antics of Cutter, Newman is an effective antidote to the bad taste that Cutter has a tendency to leave.
It does sometimes almost get to the point of over sentimentality but given the alternative Newman is a likeable character. In some regards although this is set in a post apocalyptic setting it runs rather like a most nihilistic cowboy film, Cutter being the evil outlaw and Newman being the reluctant deliverer of justice. Certainly most of the action scenes seem to be inspired by the violence of Sam Peckinpah's movies and though they aren't nearly as accomplished in terms of skill in any department they do carry a sense of urgency and occasionally can be quite unsettling. While the film does lapse into sentimentality from time to time it manages to steer clear of being sickly about it. It would be all to easy for the righteous man to become annoying but Newman does manage to remain likeable and even admirable, it's clear the writers liked this guy, possibly even too much as he's almost flawless in character.
The supporting characters also seem to fare pretty well including remarkably the young boy Newman takes into his care. He's played down a bit, not made into a victim and is handled well by both the young actor and the writing for the most part. Where normally this character normally ends up being somewhat of an annoyance, a cliché object of sentimental gushing at best, he manages to provide some purpose to Newman without becoming a millstone.

And this is the nice thing about aftermath, for all it's cheapness and its multiple flaws it's a story that is sympathetic to its protagonists and for such a low budget film Aftermath does at least try hard to be more than its budget would allow.
Though the technicalities of the film suffer because of that the director makes some decent use of locations to create the devastated world, and thanks to the limitations of VHS, which have ironically boosted the effect of many a movie by virtue of it's low quality, the more shaky effects and the model cities blend in quite well.
There is an apparent enthusiasm for the project both on screen and off and while it couldn't be classed a classic it is at least respectable attempt that presents what amounts to more of a situation rather than a story. It does come over as being a bit kitschy at times, it's budget also shows quite prominently too and it's a very simple affair that doesn't delve into any apparent depths however for what it is it's a decent effort at making a film that has some heart instead of being all about the violence.
As B movie sci fi goes Aftermath isn't all that original, it isn't always that well done but it is a sincere, often atmospheric and rather enjoyable film

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