'Aftermath': Film Review
July 18 (RLJ/Image Entertainment)
C.J. Thomason, Monica Keena, Edward Furlong, Andre Royo
A ragtag group of survivors face a nuclear apocalypse in this low-budget horror film.
Considering the number of times that moviegoers have been forced to experience the end of world, it’s a wonder that any of them still have the will to get up in the morning. The latest example of this increasingly tired genre is Aftermath (originally titled Remnants), about a group of strangers huddling together in a farmhouse cellar after a nuclear apocalypse. As it soon becomes clear, they’re slowly dying of radiation poisoning, an experience probably not unlike sitting through this listlessly slow-paced exercise.
After setting up its premise via dire radio news accounts of nuclear strife in the Middle East, the film depicts mushroom clouds littering the bleak Texas landscape where a young doctor, Hunter (C.J. Thomason), is hiking. Meeting up with three fellow desperate travelers, he leads the group to a desolate farmhouse inhabited by five other people, hoping to avoid the inevitable radioactive fallout.
The group--including elderly diabetic Wendell (Toby Bernard), jittery redneck Brad, (Edward Furlong), his pregnant wife Angie (Christine Kelly) and spiritual-minded Rob (Andre Royo of The Wire)--attempts to contact the outside world via short-wave radio while carefully rationing dwindling supplies. But their hopes of surviving the radiation dissipate as they begin spouting ugly blotches on their skin, signaling that they’ve already been poisoned.
With much of the film taking place in near-darkness and consisting largely of banal dialogue, director Peter Engert is unable to bring much visual vibrancy to the static proceedings. Christian McDonald’s screenplay largely avoids sensationalism until the violent conclusion, but its attempt at thoughtfully depicting how humanity will cope with the end of civilization for the most part falls flat.
It all culminates in a ferocious battle as the group becomes besieged by a horde of irradiated victims who have entered a zombie-like state. Although the sequence at least relieves the overall monotony, its effect is lessened by the gratuitous use of cheesy freeze-frame zooms.
Thomason delivers a strong performance as the stalwart hero, and Furlong, who’s had some experience facing the apocalypse in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and numerous other films, makes for a highly convincing jerk. But their efforts aren’t enough to prevent the end of the world, at least as depicted here, from seeming awfully dull.
Production: Eastlake Films, LightWave Entertainment
Cast: C.J. Thomason, Monica Keena, Edward Furlong, Andre Royo, Christine Kelly, Jessie Rusu, Ross Britz, Tody Bernard, John Kennon Keeper
Director: Peter Engert
Screenwriter: Christian McDonald
Producers: Peter Engert, Zachary Reeves
Executive producers: Tom Conigliaro, Peter Evans, Oak Porcelli, Mark Yeh
Director of photography: Scott Winig
Editor: Nikki Winig
Production designer: Peter Cordova
Composer: Austin Wintory
No rating, 92 min.