Zombie movies are very in vogue, of course, so post-apocalypse movies are on the rise. Aftermath brings something new to a subgenre that is currently overflowing with unoriginal films. It is about a group of survivors in rural Texas after the world has been all but decimated by a barrage of nuclear bombs. The nine strangers lock themselves in a basement to ride out what may actually be the end of the world.
I absolutely LOVED Aftermath. It genuinely made me feel a deep sense of dread, a true fear for these characters. This is a Twilight Zone nightmare stretched out and explored for 90 tense minutes. What could be scarier than being locked underground—isolated from everyone else you have ever known or loved—watching the people around you decay, staring down your own inevitable and looming death? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Aftermath is scary because it could happen. Every element of the film was credible. All of the actors (led by Edward Furlong as a volatile father-to-be and C.J. Thomason as a young doctor) gave solid performances that contribute to the film’s realistic feel. The special effects make-up that progressed as the radiation became more widespread was subtle and very believable. There was a genuine sense of claustrophobia and anxiety that was captured. Aftermath was so frightening because, if the proverbial red button were to be pushed, I’m pretty sure this would not be too far off of what would really happen. That is deeply alarming; it affected me on a level deeper than most other movies—I couldn’t brush this one off.
A particularly commendable aspect of this film is its lack of zombies! The radiation-burn-victims are the closest thing to zombies, and they definitely have a zombie-ish appearance to them, but they are still people. The fact that these “zombies” are still people adds a dimension to the film that a lot of post-apocalyptic films do not have. You can’t mindlessly shoot them as you would the walking dead—these people are still people, albeit burned and mutilated. These villains are actually victims. For the bulk of the film, they are only hinted at and unseen, which added a great layer of suspense to the film.
I can only say one negative thing about the film. Towards the very end of Aftermath, there are some really strange editorial decisions made that are markedly different from the rest of the movie (if you watch it, you will know in half a second what I am referring to). It makes a climactic scene feel much less scary—the rest of the film had been so disconcerting because it was steeped in realism, but these strange film cuts give it a noticeably edited feel, which totally took me out of the moment. But that is honestly my only gripe with the film.
Aftermath is a brilliant, character-driven post-apocalyptic nightmare that I highly recommend. It doesn’t rely on zombies to scare us. It is an effective and terrifying end-of-the-world scenario. It is unsettling because it is fathomable… and disturbing because it is plausible. It will get under your skin.
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