Aftermath (2005) – By Jonathon Pernisek

 Fleet Street Films, headed by director/writer/editor/actor Anthony Spadaccini, are behind what is known as “the film truth collection,” a series of films meant to tackle social issues via a story device known as the pseudo-documentary. In Unstable, the first film in the collection, the topic of hate crimes was addressed. Its sequel, Hatred, examined the lasting effects of these crimes, and our current subject, Aftermath, tackles entirely new fields by highlighting secrecy and its ties to HIV status. What do all of these films have in common? They’re all hindered in their search for truth by a similar set of flaws, namely a sense of over direction and the need to spell out their messages letter by letter. Aftermath proves itself to be the worst in the trilogy by not only showing off these flaws but by including a few unique to itself.

To recap: In this series, all of the actors involved play a fictional edition of themselves, and in order to further their story improvised dialogue is created on the fly. Taking place in-between Unstable and Hatred, Aftermath sees Anthony and a gang of his pals going to the beach for a weekend of fun (or so they think as these films tend to go). Anthony becomes miffed when a former friend named JP tags along, causing confusion amongst his roommate, Ben, and other friends. Why have the two not talked for over six months? As it turns out, JP made Anthony promise to keep his positive HIV status a secret, using info about our hero sleeping with Ben’s ex-boyfriend as leverage. Since then the two have cut all ties, but the weekend soon becomes a time for all of these undisclosed truths to come to the surface.

It’s pointless to talk about how the unrehearsed acting skills of the people involved are above average, since this has been discussed at length in my last two reviews. So what exactly makes Aftermath worse than its brothers? The fact that not only are there improvised scenes in the film but actual, scripted scenes penned by Ben the roommate and Rebecca Lynne, who also shows up on camera as Anthony’s sister. Watching the movie you can tell immediately when these scenes begin and end, since the footage goes from being handheld and in color to constructed shots and black and white. What then follows is some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard in my life, and that’s coming from someone who’s seen quite a few bad movies in his short lifetime. “I feel like a bug that’s been crushed,” laments JP at one point. “No…you’ve been doing the crushing,” Anthony responds. Holy mother, who comes up with this stuff? What’s worse, the same people who are so natural without scripts become truly horrible actors when it comes time to deliver lines. They couldn’t find work in a community theatre, believe me.

Spadaccini further mocks my sensibilities as a viewer by proclaiming on the film’s DVD how it is meant for “mature audiences,” noting how Aftermath contains “adult themes, sexual content, nudity, drug use, brief violence, & some language.” Indeed, it does contain all of these elements, but they’re all totally irrelevant because they show the audience what they should already know through intuition. Example: An awkward sex scene between JP and another man does nothing to further the story since later on, in the improvised footage, Ben points out how his bed has been mussed. It would have been much more intriguing to just assume what went on between the couple, but I guess the thought went that showing it would be more “edgy.” Cocaine use, randomly inserted shots of Spadaccini’s bare butt and privates and other pointless forms of “maturity” further solidify this theory.

I have progressively gotten more antagonized by these films because they do not learn from their past mistakes. Instead of trying to make something that’s actually relevant to society, Spadaccini has crafted a trilogy stuffed to the brim with shock-value clichés, groan-worthy writing, and lame-brained style tricks. This really is the truth of the matter, folks, and though I’m sure those at Fleet Street Films had good intentions from the start, their product just doesn’t hold my interest any longer.