The Aftermath (1982) Blu-ray Review

NASA Man: Action Hero

Right on the periphery of ‘70s cinema, The Aftermath chews on Planet of the Apes and marries that to a bit of zombie exploitation. If Charlton Heston arrived on Earth sooner, before the apes, Aftermath is where he’d land. It’s ugly. NASA astronaut Newman (just Newman) slams into the Pacific, discovering Los Angeles to be in ruins – most of the time anyway. A rooftop fight shows much of the city was rescued by budgetary constraints.

Aftermath isn’t much beyond lurid trash cinema, but it’s captivating in how much it tries. Written, directed, and starring direct-to-video regular Steve Barkett, Aftermath certainly has energy. Between nearly silent bouts of dull exposition come a flurry of dorky fist fights with mutants, messy shoot-outs, and just because, bouts of nudity and rape. Newman’s nice guy persona breaks down alongside this broken civilization, and it turns out NASA trains astronauts as riflemen too. Lucky Newman.

Barkett’s vengeance barely reaches a believable degree, but he’s trying

Sloppy and limited, it’s hard to ignore how earnest this schlock actually is. Barkett gives his all, rolling around with a shotgun, stabbing would-be assailants, and safely falling over when doing his own stunts. Alongside his son’s wooden performance, Barkett’s vengeance barely reaches a believable degree, but he’s trying. Much of Aftermath falls on Sid Haig, playing a vicious, child-killing leader of a local gang. He’s not much for character – an always-on villain – but that’s enough for Barkett to march into his camp for an all-out assault.

It’s never clear when exactly this is. Men tote typical six-shooters and shotguns. Midway through, characters begin shooting laser rifles (because NASA invented those?). Filmed in ‘78 with sideburns and bellbottoms of the time, but not released until ‘82, there’s a surreal juxtaposition in considering Aftermath’s place. It’s difficult to parse this as sci-fi in a post Star Wars world anyway.

Charge Aftermath with robbing Mad Max; you’re almost right, except Aftermath filmed first. In the post-nuke survivalist genre, Aftermath came fairly early, but it’s doubtful anyone saw this and proceeded to make their own epic as opposed to Mad Max. When Aftermath isn’t shooting stuff up, it’s hard to digest. Either it’s aimlessly silent (although with an unusually great, bold, symphonic score) or actors open their mouths to speak. Neither presents a winning situation for the viewer.

Video

Other than some heavy gate weave (nauseating at times), Aftermath looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Marketing lists this as a 2017 2K transfer from the 35mm negative. Given the look, that’s hard to dispute as anything but factual.

Superb definition and detail resolve this sort-of-but-not-really devastated Earth, with generously resolved tree lines, tall grass, and rock textures. Close-ups work on facial detail. Strong resolution stays firm aside from a handful of shots traveling far out of focus.

Aside from pink-ish flesh tones on occasion, color remains notably bright. Saturation of reds is especially high, with other primaries following. For a nuclear wrecked world, there’s plenty of greenery around to admire. Contrast follows, giving Aftermath additional life, while black levels struggle to reach true black. Still, they dig in and successfully give this feature depth.

VCI’s encoding keeps grain under control. The print itself shows next to no real damage. A few errant still shots will reveal scratches. but otherwise, Aftermath is pristine.

Audio

Workmanlike PCM mono proves sufficient. A vintage, worn quality is unavoidable, no doubt. There’s no zest to the guns and dialog runs dry, even out of sync in spots. One skip is noted, but other signs of normal degradation are cleaned up.

At least the score maintains clarity, with a clean high-end and satisfying lows. That’s the good stuff.

Extras

Bonus features shuffle over from a late ‘90s Laserdisc edition, beginning with a commentary from Barkett. He shows up in the erratic making-of too, with skip edits and topic shifts coming from an era before DVD bonuses found their style. The original Aftermath soundtrack is provided in full, which is awesome, as is a short film titled Night Fall.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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