Well, this film sure took me by surprise!

I recently watched Aftermath–a tense and scary film about a small group hunkered down in a basement after a nuclear apocalypse.  While it’s a pretty good film, the film I expected to see was Aftermath–a film about a Polish-American man who is returning to Poland for a visit.  Somehow, Netflix just released the film…the wrong film.  I called them and they said that the company NEVER ordered the apocalyptic film…and others are apparently reporting that they, too, got this film instead!  Well, I guess it was just meant to be that I saw the other film instead!

Both films were made in 2012–so I can understand the mix-up.  The Aftermath I saw was directed by Peter Engert and stars a variety of talented but relatively unknown actors.  This was a good thing, as the movie is about ordinary people and how they react to a nuclear war.  Having Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep in the film might have been cool…but it wouldn’t have worked with a picture like this.

When the movie, you learn that several nations have begun detonating nuclear weapons on each other.  Exactly how and why isn’t important–what IS important is that somehow a chain reaction occurred and nations are now nuking each other!  The film is set in rural Texas and even there they are impacted as soon bombs start detonating all around them.  A young doctor, Brad (C.J. Thomason) is backpacking when the bombs start going off nearby–and he and a woman and her blinded brother rush to find supplies and shelter before the effects of the blasts kill them.  Finding the supplies is amazingly easy as is a vehicle, but the shelter is another thing.  Brad and his two new friends aren’t sure if they’ll ever find a basement or bomb shelter, as the first place they try results in Brad getting shot!  He’s going to survive but what about the next place they try?  And, even if they find a shelter, what will happen when the folks that remain start to behave like animals…as they most certainly will.

If you are looking for a feel-good movie or a date film, then you need to keep looking.  Not surprisingly, Aftermath is incredibly depressing and eventually looks a lot like a zombie movie in many ways.  But that does not mean it’s a bad film–and nuclear apocalypse, unless I am mistaken, SHOULD be incredibly depressing!!  Christian McDonald’s script is very intelligently written and SEEMS probable.  While I am sure nuclear physicists and engineers would find lots of plot holes, it sure seemed real and kept my attention.  I also appreciated it because it was a great look at human nature–at least for us pessimists who assume such a horrific event would be made even worse by many of the survivors and near-survivors.

In some ways, the film reminded me a bit of the classic film On the Beach–but without all the movie star cameos.  In this 1959, the world also starts to slowly die because of a widespread nuclear exchange but too many of the characters seemed amazingly nice, decent and orderly in the face of certain death.  I am not knocking it–it’s a good film despite this.  But it lacks the grittiness and ugliness you see in Aftermath.  Ugly, tense and awful–all good reasons to give this independent film a chance.    However, also very good reasons NOT to watch this with your kids!!  In fact, I really think it’s perhaps too tense, depressing and bloody for many adults–but it STILL is a very good film because it never falls back on sentiment or clichés.  It’s worth a look…for the right viewers.

by Martin Hafer