The Aftermath (1982)
What comes after World War III?
Year of Release: 1982
Also Known As: Aftermath, Zombie Aftermath
Genre: Science Fiction/Drama
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 95 minutes (1:35)
Director: Steve Barkett
Steve Barkett ... Newman
Lynne Margulies ... Sarah
Sid Haig ... Cutter
Christopher Barkett ... Christopher
Larry Latham ... Mathews
Alfie Martin ... Getman
Forrest J. Ackerman ... The Curator
Linda Stiegler ... Helen
Laura Anne Barkett ... Laura
Robert Skotak ... One of Cutter's Men / Mutant
Dick Miller ... Broadcaster (voice)
Three astronauts return from deep space to discover that a world-wide biological and nuclear war has ravaged the Earth.
The returning scientists face a dual peril, from mutant cannibals... and from a gang of psychotic killers who control what is left of civilization.
While making their way through the ruins of Los Angeles, the astronauts learn of a few innocent survivors living in constant fear of the murderous gang and its leader, Cutter.
The deranged leader of the gang savagely murders the survivors, one-by-one before becoming the ultimate target of the avenging astronauts.
The Aftermath, the movie that answers the question "what if we had a splashdown and no one came?" I'm not gonna provide an answer for that question just yet, cause if I did you'd prolly stop readin' right now an surf on over to Pornhub in disgust. Which'd be unfortunate, cause we're about to start our little four year long social experiment of havin' a Reality TV star in charge, an survivin' in a post apocalyptic world is somethin' we should all start gettin' acquainted with while there's still time.
An speakin' of gettin' the year off on the wrong foot, I sure hope everybody had a better weekend than I did. In case you're wonderin' what's required to meet that odious distinction, it's basically like this; if you didn't spend six hours tryin' to coax a possum out from under your house, congratulations, you probably got me beat. I did learn somethin' though, namely that if you let your dog out to dump when it's 15 degrees below Fairbanks an forget he's there cause he'll only bark to get OUT an not back IN, he might just dig out the crawlspace under your house to get warm. Least that's what mine done, an when he heard me callin' for 'im later on he came runnin' so fast that I didn't hafta go lookin' for 'im, otherwise I'da prolly seen the hole. You're prolly wonderin' what any of this hasta do with Shankles; well, with the crawlspace opened up all the pipes under the bathroom froze up like a Russian bedpan. This meant takin' the plyboard off the back of the shower to get 'em thawed out again, an guess who decided to play Indiana Jones an the Sinkhole of Doom? Exactly; Shankles. He got one whiff of all the mice under the house, squeezed his way through the pipes, an went in search of rodent ribeye. So you're prolly thinkin, big deal, right? He'll just climb back out when he's done screwin' around down there, right? Yeah, no. You ever seen a possum try to jump before? It's plum pathetic, an that's BEFORE they pack away enough mice to feed the boa constrictor in the high school science classroom for a year an a half. We're talkin' rodent coma. I'd yell down through the hole an he'd just kinda struggled to lift his head up, burp, an go back to sleep. I tried callin' Cleave Furguson to help me get 'im outta there, but he said not to go draggin' him into it unless I was lookin' to get 'im taxidermied. Cleave ain't much of a humanitarian at 2am, I found out. Wasn't no point in callin' Billy Hilliard, cause he couldn't fit into that space even if you quartered 'im up first, so finally I called Sadie Bonebreak, which I woulda done first thing cause she's Shankles' best bud in the whole world, but I had a sneakin' suspicion that if I got 'er outta bed at that hour she'd do somethin' drastic, like tear all the doors off the Topaz again. Fortunately she recognized the seriousness of the situation an just ripped my shirt off an shoved me head first into the snowbank.
But anyway, I finally strapped on my miner's helmet like the guy in My Bloody Valentine an started crawlin' around through all the mouse husks an... liquor bottles. Man, I had no idea Dad drank so much when I was a kid. I hadn't seen that much dirty old glass since the county dragged Lake Gunkamucka tryin' to find Aesop Marlin back in '91 when he caught Bass Fever an tried livin' in the pond to get a better understandin' of their social order. Like I was sayin' though, Shankles was out longer'n a jury tryin' to determine whether the Hulk Hogan sex tape constitutes bestiality, an I couldn't reach the little booger cause the ground slopes up under the tub. I had Sadie up topside sayin' cute things to 'im in baby talk, but all he could do was reach for 'er with one arm an make these pitiful squeakin' sounds like a rusty spring in an old pickup seat. I was all outta ideas by this point, an more'n a little P.O.'d at havin' spent the night gettin' covered in dirt an vermin viscera an freezin' half to death, until I started thinkin' about how the heck everything'd come to this. That's when I finally come up with a plan. We'd been coddlin' the little jackass up to that point an gotten nowhere, so I had Sadie send Apollo down into the hole so's I could get 'im focused on the spot where Shankles was layin' spread out like a tub of melted ice cream, an tossed a stick behind 'im. Course, Apollo couldn't fit back there neither, but he could still get a lot closer'n me, an when he couldn't squeeze any further to grab that stick he went completely apeshit an started raisin' hell about its inaccessibility, until Shankles couldn't stand it anymore an tried tearin' his nose off. Thankfully, he was way too slow in his engorged state, an Apollo escaped back out the crawlspace hole an back into the house with Shankles a good 10 feet behind. Sadie got ahold of Shankles an rubbed his belly till he calmed back down, but Cripes Almighty, I swear, if he does that again that hole's gonna be his tomb. I'm done Crawlin' in the Dark like Hoobastank for that ungrateful little jerk.
Matter of fact, let's just drop the subject, makes my head hurt. Prolly has somethin' to do with stickin' my hand on that centipede the size of a claw hammer an smackin' my head on a support beam. Anyway, this week we've got one of the cheapest Apocalypse Then flicks ever made, I'm speaking of course about the 1982 (at least after it'd sat on the shelf for four years) classic, The Aftermath. Kinda gives it away when you see that the flick's directed, produced, written, edited by, an starring the same guy, even before you notice the two other people with the same last name performing various other jobs. But I'm not a shallow kinda guy, an I'm not gonna judge this flick's place in cinematic history based solely upon the fact that it cost less to make than a Taiwanese snow cone maker. So let's give it a chance, an take a moment to ponder the value of its hypothetical offerings. First, if you've gotta "pray we don't hit land" on reentry into a planet that's 67% water, you probably shouldn't be allowed to pilot a moped, let alone the space shuttle. Second, if you suspect the apocalypse is on the horizon, always buy a Jeep in advance, cause they take atomic explosions like a champ. An third, museum attendance rates remain surprisingly flat even after society crumbles. But the thing I find especially interesting about the coming apocalypse is that it's really the catalyst which brings about the question "what can I live without?" Now, obviously mosta your creature comforts're gonna hafta go, primarily because you're about to spend the rest of your life duckin' mutants and/or paranoid Y2K survivalists, which can make it hard to lug around a collection of vinyl LPs in a backpack while bein' shot at or chewed on. But from what I've seen in this flick, one of the first things to go is actually pretty obvious, an that's the bra. Which is pretty sensible when you think about it, cause the only reason to wear one, even now, is to keep Betty an Wilma as gravitationally defiant as possible so's you can meet a man that you can bring home to Mama. Thing is, it ain't like folks're gonna have a big selection to choose from after the big one drops, an besides that, Mama prolly didn't survive the blast that took out Kenosha anyway. So it seems like the dystopian future could well be a pretty liberating experience when you get right down to it, cause it's like Brad Pitt says in Fight Club: "it's only when we've lost everything that we're free to do anything," an I expect that holds especially true after society hits the skids so hard that even the Waffle House is gone. I guess what I'm sayin' is: it's always important to look on the bright side of things, cause at the end of the day, God doesn't close down an orphanage without openin' an abortion clinic.
The movie begins with a spaceship constructed entirely from paper footballs returnin' to Earth after an extended period at an intergalactic truck stop where its astronauts (Newman an Mathews) were sent to determine if Earth girls really are easy, comparatively speaking. Only they can't seem to pick up any communications from Earth cause their control panel's comprised of an Etch-A-Sketch an fragments of Rubik's Cubes that became separated from their cores during moments of intense frustration, an so the space jockeys hafta point the ship at the coastline of California an hope that global warming hasn't gotten so bad that they're about to bury the nose of their ship into the submerged Century Plaza Tower. Meanwhile, mean guy Sid Haig is down on Earth terrorizin' the survivors of WWIII (which occurred while the astronauts were out sippin' Tang an testin' the latest version of NASA Depends) with his fleet of pickup trucks driven by shotgun toting redneck sadists from the Bundy Ranch. Sid's idea of a good time is to blow the heads offa elderly men who run around the dystopian savannah wearin' double-breasted business suits an then makin' all the women bounce around without bras until their nipples get so chaffed that their breasts start lookin' look like sippy cups. But anyway, while Sid's layin' the groundwork for all the aspirin' Negans out there, the rocket jocks're in big trouble after somebody decides it'd be real funny to light off a buncha Golden Shower firework fountains in the cockpit, an they end up crashin' into the Pacific where Newman proceeds to head up the coastline, until he discovers the corpses of Charlton Heston an Linda Harrison. Then his little buddy washes up on shore so they can mourn the loss of Universal Studios Hollywood as an ensemble, only when they stop to camp for the night they're attacked by Play-Doh faced mutants, an Newman hasta slice off some arms an turn a few of 'em into Chernobyl chili con carne so they can get some shut eye. The next mornin', they find the ruins of civilization just over the other side of their flourishing grassy campsite an go check out this radio station that looks like the Insane Clown Posse hosted the annual Gathering of the Juggalos from the broadcast booth.
Inside he finds a tape recording of Dick Miller breakin' the record for the fastest plot exposition scene in the history of cinema, in which he explains that every major city on Earth has been nuked like a potato in the microwave, an that the resulting radiation turned purt'near all the survivors into cannibal mutant freaks. Then Newman an Mathews go house huntin' an scour the rubble for a classy dinette set an some curtains that make just the right statement about their traditional middle-class upbringing, until they finally feel their house is a very, very, very fine house. Course, by now Mathews is already naggin' Newman about a white picket security fence, so Newman sneaks out under the guise of searchin' for fingertip towels for the guest bath, an ends up havin' to hole up in a museum when the acid rain starts pourin' down on 'im like he's passin' under Jimi Hendrix's bedroom window. Then he meets this old man who used up all the frequent flyer miles on his chemotherapy sessions in one afternoon, who leads 'im around the dinosaur exhibit tellin' 'im about how mankind has failed to read the Charlie Manson scribbles on the wall an doomed himself to an existence bereft of drive-thru windows an robot hookers. The old guy's about to head for the big community theater in the sky, so he makes Newman promise to take care of his bowl-cutted apprentice (Chris) so he won't end up gettin' turned into C.H.U.D. chowder, before goin' to find a sarcophagus to crawl into. Elsewhere, Sid's displayin' his masculine wiles on one of his captive ladies (Sarah) an showin' 'er what a charming, sensitive maniac he can be if she'll just give 'im half a chance. Unfortunately for Sid, he tosses his busted beer bottle onto the floor where she's able to reach it, an when he goes for the busto she grabs ahold of it an jams it into his shoulder, givin' 'er enough time to escape. The next mornin', Newman an Chris take their Jeep an redeem their good-for-one-free-wash coupon at The Holowasht where their motto is: "even after the nuke, we'll scrub out that puke," cept after that they start takin' sniper fire from Sarah who's holed up in an old apartment building thinkin' Sid hired some goons from the Cheap-ho Repo to bring 'er back. Fortunately for Newman she's too dumb to cover 'er rear or even watch 'er back, an he's able to sneak up on 'er an explain that he's just out scroungin' for a nice set of coasters an a futon.
Course while that's goin' on, the kid's outside bein' attacked by the Neon Maniacs, an Sarah hasta start shellin' out doses of lead to protect 'im from radiation geeks until the three of 'em can make it to their rig an ditch the creepers in their Jeepers. Then they go home so Newman an Sarah can spend the night hammerin' out a rental agreement, but now Sarah's just bummed out AND bummed in cause 'er friend (Helen) an 'er kid (Laura) are still stuck inside Haigar the Horrible's internment camp. This means Newman an Mathews hafta come up with a plan to bust 'er out before Sid decides to make 'er sing poonbaya around the campfire, so the four of 'em head down to Sid's compound an Newman manages to get the drop on 'im while he's tryin' to get his hands on Helen's melons, an pretty quick Sarah starts firin' off this Star Wars missile defense laser at anything that moves an blows Sid's munitions outhouse into a thousand pieces. Then mornin' comes an Sid has pretty well transcended bein' P.O.'d, so he waits for Newman an Chris to go out scavengin' an breaks in, bludgeons Mathews, an opens up a Chick-Fillet to even the score. Newman has sad face, so he decides to make like Rick Santorum an give Chris this big speech about refusin' to let baby killers roam free (Laura was about 8-years-old), an then gives the women a viking funeral before headin' off to settle Sid's hash. Newman's officially all outta fucks to give, so he drives his Jeep straight through the wall of Sid's barracks, starts pitchin' grenades like Roger Clemens on military maneuvers, blows up his own rig, an then drops some dynamite into one of Sid's cars an blows it up right as these three chunkheads stick their heads inside lookin' for 'im. We're talkin' Fillet Minion. Newman eludes capture by utilizin' his mustache to blend in with the native flora an immediately circles back around to execute another 279 of Sid's goons, cept then Mathews gets blown away by Sid's #2 an Newman gives 'im a stinkeye that's so stanktified he ends up forgettin' he can just murder Newman on the spot an flees to the city. Then everything turns into an old Mannix rerun, with the two guys climbin' up onto the rooftops an firin' rounds into things that're guaranteed to make ricochet noises, until Newman heroically blows the guy's legs out from under 'im an stabs the roofing two feet away from his face so he'll die from cardiac arrest. Gonna cut the summary here, but Sid's still out there, so if you wanna find out how it ends, you're gonna hafta start hittin' those VHS yard sales.
Alrighty, so, for all you who might've been wondering what a community theater mash-up between The Omega Man, The Ultimate Warrior, and Planet of the Apes might look like, there you have it. All three of you. I'll watch just about anything with a post apocalypse theme, but this thing is below amateurish in every respect, with absolutely zero defining qualities to separate it from the other post-nuke titles of the era. That's including elements that could potentially make it enjoyable on a "so bad it's good" level. There's simply nothing here that warrants a second viewing, a recommendation, or even a slight chance you'll remember this thing two months after you've seen it. The IMDB "estimates" that the flick had a budget of $250,000 but I'd be curious to know what criteria they use to make such determinations. There's no way somebody actually sat through this thing and discerned that a quarter million went into it, so I'm guessing they use some algorithm that takes things like subgenre and year of release into account when there's nobody around who can provide an accurate figure. 50K I might buy, but not 250K. Now, as for what specifically makes it worse than other low budget flicks of the same era, a lot of it has to do with just how implausibly many of the scenes play out. Some of its problems are things you've seen before, like the 300 bad guys wielding automatic weapons that can't seem to put so much as a crack in the guy's windshield when he storms Sid Haig's compound; but wait, there's more! You've got the laser that comes outta nowhere (that's only used once), the immaculate sparkling Jeep just begging to be snatched up, the destroyed cityscapes that magically become fully intact buildings when called upon for fight scenes, the fact that Sid Haig's gang kills Sarah, Helen, and Laura, but leaves Mathews alive, the knife that misses the head of Sid's #2 by a good foot because the camera's up way too high, and a visible hand in a shot intending to depict an accidentally nudged rock tumbling into a chasm (the rock is being tossed). I'll go into the individual failures in greater depth in the appropriate sections momentarily, but even more so than all these other problems, it's probably the pacing that really does it in. I mean, even when you consider the action sequences aren't all that action-packed to begin with, they're few and far between, and Barkett's writing talent simply does not allow for a moving philosophical message during the slow sections, which play out more like a Drama than an Action flick. Not that we really want that anyway, cause we paid for mutant face eating zombies, and the most suspenseful scenes in the movie involve the audience wondering if Sid Haig's cigarette ash is gonna fall into his beard. Safety first, Sid. The heck with continuity man, flick that ash between takes. You're not bein' paid enough to risk permanent damage to that handsome face.
So we're pretty much talkin' toilet time on this one, but since we're all here anyway, let's go ahead and light these mutants on fire to see if even that can alter their expressions a little. The plot, without looking at all the little things that got screwed up, is pretty decent. You read the plot to the movie and think, "Hey, Sid Haig terrorizing the remnants of a society plagued by mutant Californians? Sign me up," but there're just way too many production and reasoning flaws in the writing to overlook. I'm sure I've missed a lot of them, but even so, bringing them up now would be spiking the ball, and the sensationalist hook that brought me and the hundreds that came before me to this flick doesn't hold up when faced with the indomitable might of the painful pacing. The acting, with the exception of Sid Haig, is utterly wooden. You could not give a damn less about these people one way or the other, and actually, I found myself not exactly rooting for Sid, but at least hoping he wouldn't die before the end of the movie, because once he's gone we're talkin' an entire cast of graduates from the Kristen Stewart School for Emotionally Drained Thespians. Steve Barkett, bless his heart, managed to land the lead role entirely by virtue of being a close personal friend of the director/producer/writer/editor, who just happens to also be Steve Barkett, and I don't wanna be rude or nothin', but if Steve was to sit down at a table with Jeb Bush and Perry Mason, he'd be the least charismatic guy in the room.
Here's who matters and why (less Sid Haig and Dick Miller): Steve Barkett (Empire of the Dark, Dinosaur Island, Star Hunter, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, Cyberzone, Dark Universe, Wizards of the Demon Sword, Beverly Hills Vamp), Christopher Barkett (Empire of the Dark), Forrest J. Ackerman (The Dead Undead, The Boneyard Collection, Scarlet Moon, Scorned 2005, The Naked Monster, Skinned Deep, Future War, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, That Little Monster, Innocent Blood, Dead Alive, Nudist Colony of the Dead, The Laughing Dead, Transylvania Twist, Curse of the Queerwolf, Return of the Living Dead Part II, Evil Spawn, Amazon Women on the Moon, Scalps, The Howling, King Kong 1976, Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Queen of Blood, The Time Travelers), Jim Danforth (Equinox), Eric Caidin (Hellroller, Cannibal Hookers, Prison Ship), Vincent Barbi (The Blob 1958, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, The Corpse Grinders, The Astro Zombies, Batman 1966), Jeff Sillifant (Escape from New York), Edwin Avedissian (School Spirit, The Black Room, To All a Goodnight).
The special effects, despite being irredeemably terrible, aren't actually the biggest thing wrong with the movie. More on that momentarily. However, this pitiful display is a big part of why I say there's no way this movie was made for anything CLOSE to $250,000, because the special effects were done, at least in part, by Dennis and Robert Shostak (who went on to do Aliens, Terminator 2, Tremors, Batman Returns, and a host of other good movies). Both of whom worked on Galaxy of Terror the year before for Roger Corman, who is himself a pretty thrifty guy, and just look at how much better that flick looks than this one. If those two had had even a $100,000 budget to work with, this flick would've had passable effects, period. But that's not how it went down, so allow me to summarize what we do have, rather than what we could have had. The bullet holes blown into the dummies are actually not bad (except for the one that explodes and seems to spray a barrage of goose down into the air), but the blood that comes out bears a strong resemblance to cherry Kool-Aid, both in terms of color and consistency. Some of the other blood used in the movie is a lot better, but anytime it's bursting out of something, it pretty well blows chunks through its nose. Additionally, the toy spacecraft is pretty pitiful flying through space (and even more so when it hits the water), the sparks that precede the ship going down are all obviously fireworks spraying in a very predictable pattern, the dinosaur skeletons in the museum look to be made of clay (although the T-Rex might be a model), the miniatures used for the destroyed cityscape aren't completely terrible, the charred corpses are lousy, and the face makeup on the mutants looks about like silly putty. In other words, they stink.
The shooting locations are too inconsistent to allow for much praise, because in all the distance shots they use these partially destroyed models to simulate the nuclear destruction, and when the camera gets up close you only ever see boards, trash, broken concrete, and a little metal spread around in SOME scenes to simulate an annihilated planet. Other scenes take place in areas where the grass is lush, or complete city blocks have endured no damage whatsoever, so the inconsistency pretty much ruins any atmosphere they might have achieved had they relegated the settings to rural areas. In other words, it fails even in an area where the points are often a given. The soundtrack is actually the single most damning element of the movie, and not just because it sounds like an unused score for a science fiction flick from the 1950s, although that doesn't do it any favors. You might even consider going easy on it if the movie wasn't so deathly serious, because it's cheesy as all get-out, but the general feeling is that of a composition that was created entirely without imput from the director regarding the type of tone he intended the movie to have. Essentially, half the soundtrack is just straight up out of place (with cheerful, optimistic music playing over Barkett's initial search of the ruins), while the other half is so badly dated that it cannot be taken seriously for even a moment of the film's runtime. That goes without saying, it sure as heck isn't catchy, although there is one section that sounds suspiciously like the music from Star Wars IV where the droids are wandering the desert of Tattooine after their initial landing. There's also a short piece that sounds a lot like the bounty hunter transformation music from Critters 2, although The Aftermath predates that by nearly a decade. Overall, despite having been shot the year before Mad Max, and thus not actually being one of the many terrible Mad Max clones, the best way to put this flick's worth into perspective is to say that it lags as far behind the Mad Max imitators, as the Mad Max imitators lag behind Mad Max. For example, Warrior of the Lost World is pitiful compared to Mad Max, right? Well, The Aftermath is pitiful compared to Warrior of the Lost World. In fact, just forget you ever read this, it's a Chernobyl Farms turkey.