Film Review: AftermathImagine <i>Night of the Living Dead</i>, then take away the zombies and add radiation sickness: The result would be something like this claustrophobic post-nuclear apocalypse tale about how quickly civilized people revert once civilization is gone.
It begins with devastation: Rain, corpses, a trembling hand and palsied feet shuffling through incongruously green, lush grass.
Cut to a month earlier, as a hitchhiker thumbs a ride on a near-deserted Texas road; his name is Hunter (C.J. Thomason) and he's aimlessly thumbing his way around before settling into his adult life. An audio montage efficiently establishes the chaos abroad—all the usual grim news that seems impossibly removed from the vast blue sky, tidy houses and ruggedly beautiful landscape of the rural American Southwest: assassination, hostilities in the familiar hot spots, a series of nuclear strikes reaching from Israel to India to Japan. Just as a car pulls over to give him a ride, a searing light rips through the sky and the first mushroom cloud appears.
Hunter and his new friends—a young woman and her kid brother, who looked at the blast and is now blind—spend a night and a day on the road, gathering food and bottled water, before finding a second group of survivors gathered in a farmhouse belonging to Wendell (Toby Bernard), whose grand-nephew Brad (Edward Furlong) sees no reason to take in a bunch of strangers, but eventually relents when Hunter reveals that he's a doctor, since Brad's wife is pregnant and Wendell is in poor health. Heeding the public-service announcements warning all survivors to shelter underground from the fallout for at least a month, the two groups repair to the basement and hunker down. The good news is that there's a short-wave radio. The bad news is that the news from the wider world is all bad and it doesn't take long for tensions to arise, especially between Brad and Hunter, alpha-males with dramatically different ideas about survival. Then the first infected survivors arrive…and while they're not zombies, just desperately sick, they surely do look and act like the walking dead.
Aftermath (shot as Remnants) is part of a recent wave of post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it stories that include The Day, The Zombie Diaries and The Divide (which it most closely resembles), all of which are throwbacks to nuclear-jitters movies of the ’80s, from the high-toned The Day After and Threads to the pulpy Warriors of the Wasteland. And it packs the same message into an easy to digest, if bitter, pill: We live in dangerous times and nuking your enemies into the Stone Age isn't such a macho-cool deal if you wind up on the wrong end of the warheads. Point taken, but in practical terms Aftermath is likely to disappoint viewers expecting a fun action movie with monsters.
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