When I was a kid three things scared the hell out of me: 1) Friday gym class. Coach Fisher always made us run a mile and my pasty chubby ass has asthma! 2) Waking up with out my penis (yeah it’s insanely unsettling for a child to worry about that, but I was a very mature 7-year-old) and 3) Nuclear apocalypse. Yes, I grew up through the 90’s and there was not even a threat of nuclear warfare, but between T.V. and movies I was convinced that at any moment a bomb could go off and kill everyone and thing I loved. The idea of being stranded without the comforts of pizza delivery and premium cable (The Domino’s delivery guy and HBO were the people and things I loved most) was enough to keep my normal sloth like reflexes on high alert. Remember the scene in Terminator 2 when Linda Hamilton has the dream where a nuke completely destroys the past versions of herself and child? Let’s just say Coach Fisher’s mile never affected my asthma that bad. Why am I telling you all these fears I had as a young round asthmatic? Because Aftermath totally tapped into these long-buried fears and dragged them up, in all their wheezy, prepubescent glory. Lucky for my inhaler, once it dragged those fears up it just poked at them. Kinda like me on prom night. All the pieces were in place I just turned into an overzealous circus monkey with down syndrome …. My poor prom date…
While backing packing across Texas, Hunter (C.J. Thomanson) has front row seats to all hell breaking loose. An unnamed force has declared nuclear war on the USA and for some reason bombed the hell out of rural Texas… Because when you’re declaring a war it’s best to do so where no one cares or will notice… Well, it’s not long before Hunter meets up with a group of survivors (including Monica Keene and Edward Furlong) and barricades themselves in the basement of a farmhouse owned by feeble-minded Jonathan (Ross Britz). Group dynamics and general bickering among the survivors fall to the way side when the group realizes that the biggest threat is the fallout that is slowly poisoning them.
With names like Edward Furlong, Monica Keene and even a Baldwin (it’s not Alec so it really doesn’t matter which) it was a shock to me to see that majority of screen time focuses around C.J. Thomanson’s character Hunter. Hunter is a young doctor with cool head on his shoulders and while the world is falling to crap around him he is focused and in charged. Despite what the film’s promo art is saying, Thomanson is the star of this film and rightfully so. He carries the movie. Furlong and Keene deliver performances us genre fans have grown accustomed to. Not saying they are bad, everyone holds their own, it just feels like a waste of money to top bill these two when you really didn’t need it. Let SyFy channel handle that PR gimmick.
The radiation poisoning angle is an interesting approach to the post apocalyptic sub-genre. It’s an area most of these types of films address with duct tape. As if applying duct tape to your windows and doors will stop radiation from slowly killing (I vaguely recall a former president advising us on this…). It makes complete sense and instead of worrying about mutants or zombies, this unseen killer should be everyone’s first concern. Aftermath begins the film with just that, but at about the half way point Andre Royo ( an amazing character actor who is a hell of talent) pops up with tales of (you guessed it) savages driven mad by radiation who are killing and raping anyone in their path. Damn we were so close….
Aftermath had all the ingredients to be a great film. Interesting story, engaging characters, solid acting and a creepy score. Not that it was a bad a movie, it just wasn’t a good movie either. Much like my first intimate encounter with the opposite sex (the aforementioned circus monkey sexcapades on prom night ) it feels like the film makers knew what all goes into a solid psychological horror film, but lost it in its execution. Something tells me they didn’t end up in the backseat of their mom’s 2001 Ford Taurus softly sobbing apologies to mildly confused and mostly annoyed young woman.