Nine survivors of an international nuclear war make their way to a cellar where they hope they can be relatively safe. Luckily, a doctor among them is able to give them the basic instructions of what to do to stay alive. But there are other survivors outside who are willing to fight their way into the shelter of the basement. It is clear there is only one realistic place that this film can be going. Having a viewer know that is a severe handicap for director Peter Engert from a script by Christian McDonald. A more experienced director would have been needed to make this a film that worked really well, but still Engert beats expectation. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
After a nuclear attack, if you survive, what do you do next? You try to find shelter from the radiation. Once you find that you sit around and wait. You may fight to defend your shelter and you wait to die. Perhaps you watch others die. That is not a hard story to put on film, but it does not make for a very good narrative. If one is making that story it is easy to make it realistic, but it is hard to make it engaging. I cannot say that ‘Aftermath’ is entertaining. It does raise some curiosity about what some people will do with the last days of their lives before they die of radiation, but most of what you can do with the plot has been done before.
‘Aftermath’ begins one month after a nuclear holocaust and we see Hunter (C. J. Thomason) stumbling around against a Texas landscape that is a little worse for wear, but not greatly so. Nature seems to be getting along in the post-nuke-attack world. We flash back one month and a much healthier Hunter is listening to radio reports of Benjamin Netanyahu having been assassinated and, in short order, there are nuclear bombs going off around the world. A pick-up truck approaches him on the road but as it is doing so we see a bright flash in the distance and a mushroom cloud. He and the two pick-up passengers, once they have their wits about them, go off looking for food, supplies and shelter. Eventually, we have nine people in the basement of a farmhouse trying to work out what are the best ways to stay alive.
There is not that much that can be done in the post-nuke-apocalypse film that has not been done in a lot of other. There is not nearly the time to do the plotting of a story like TV’s ‘Jericho’. Where ‘Aftermath’ is different is use as a threat people wanting to get into the shelter for it food and protection. These raiders are visualised in the best traditions of zombie films, even if they are a more believable foe than cinematic zombies.
Is director Peter Engert good enough to hold his viewers’ attention? Well, sort of yes and sort of no. It could have been a lot worse. At least, for the most part, the ‘Aftermath’ is generally realistic and credible. Acting is not really attention getting, but it does the job. Probably the most interesting character is Edward Furlong as the cynical Brad. The plot is a little contrived. The survivors we see have a doctor, a nurse and a Geiger counter. How many shelters would be so blessed? One of the characters has seen five nuclear blasts in one day and is still walking and talking. I am not enough of an expert to say that is impossible, but it seems to me really unlikely.
Christian McDonald’s script is overall just as dour as one might expect. There is one single joke when a character realises in one way he is better off being in Texas rather than some other state. Hunter’s advice on how to survive the situation at least sounds valid and could be useful if ever you find yourself in the same position (God forbid). This is not a fun film and there is not enough action to call it a good action film. It does much of what it is supposed to do, but there is little in this film you have not seen before in other post-holocaust films. I rate ‘Aftermath’ a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2014