Aftermath/The Awakening/Genesis – By Josh Samford

Here’s a trio of flicks you’re bound to have heard some press on as of late, if you’re in the horror community that is, of course. Aftermath has had a bit of a reputation as a sick little number for quite a while. Back in the day, if you knew anyone "extreme", usually Nekromantik and Aftermath were recommended to you at least twice a week. Ever since Unearthed Films released their DVD of the trio though, it’s reputation has went through the ROOF! I had, up until this point, never seen any of Nacho Cerda’s work but with all of the hype surrounding this disc; I had to pick it up – even if the recommendations go way back. Yeah, I guess I was swallowed a bit by the hype as well, but no big deal, I have finally been conquering my "extreme" phobias and am on a mission to witness the most gruesome films available. Why? I guess you could make some kind of phallic joke or something, but who doesn’t want to be the dork with all kinds of knowledge on the most brutal flicks imaginable? Wait, maybe that question doesn’t quite explain it… Regardless, on the subject of Aftermath and it’s hype, I have just been amazed at the publicity. Either Unearthed is really amazing with their press, or the word of mouth has just been outstanding. When you see everyday movie geeks on message boards discussing a film about necrophilia; you KNOW something is up. Now, I guess as someone who has been around the block I might as well give my opinion on whether Aftermath lived up to the hype of being the most disgusting film of all time or not. Sadly, I have to answer with a resounding: no. The effects are amazing, there’s no doubt about it, but how many times have you stumbled upon something so realistic you couldn’t tell real from fake? Even the dreaded and nefarious Guinea Pig: Flowers of Flesh and Blood featured bone cartilage that looked more like red soaked foam than anything else; why should you expect Aftermath to be any different? Yes, these effects are spectacular and should be appreciated for such; but if you’re expecting something so disgustingly realistic that the lines between reality and fiction are blurred – I don’t think this is the film for hard-core gore fans.

Now, whether that turns you off or gives you hope, I want to point out that seeing Aftermath specifically for the gore moments really isn’t even all that necessary. You’ve probably read it everywhere else as well – but it is simply an awe-inspiring little short film dealing with death and the rituals we go through with on our body. Telling the short story of an autopsy worker in a morgue who we watch work on a dead body with his assistant – and then after he is left alone, he comes across a female’s body that he is infatuated with and soon molests the body, takes her heart for himself and then feeds it to his dog when he gets home. Whether or not you see eye-to-eye with Nacho, who I would assume is not a big fan of embalming, you should be able to watch his film and understand where he is coming from. It’s not so much the message that will get you, but the way in which he delivers it. He could have been preachy and taken these extreme and bleak measures; but he showed restraint. This isn’t a damnation of anyone, but rather an expression from a talented artist on something that means a lot to him. I had read it countless times in the past, so I’m sure it’s not anything new to most readers out there; but yes, Aftermath is shot on 35mm film and is quite professional. It might not be ‘the most beautiful exploitation film ever made’ as I have read it touted off as; but it is most certainly a fantastic looking film and is revolutionary when tackling the subject matter that it does. This isn’t just some flick about a freak who rapes a corpse, even though it may just simply seem like that to anyone put off by the violence. That brings me to the main point of focus for many, the violence itself. So you may wonder, just how bad is Aftermath? Well, it’s hard for me to judge these things. Personally, I think the reason Aftermath is getting the attention it is now is that the majority of its audience is made up of people who aren’t used to these kinds of extremes. Not to even toot my own horn or anything, but ever since I went out on a limb and watched The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover due to the reports that it was a highly disturbing film (same for Irreversible) I have had a distrust for the so-called "art house" crowd and what they consider on-screen violence. Aftermath seemed a bit on the out though, since it actually has had credibility on the scene for quite a long time. Aftermath may not be the most disgusting single film I have ever seen, no, but there’s no getting past it; this is a nasty little diddy. The gore is not for the weak of heart or those who simply can’t stand to imagine a human autopsy… then of course there’s the rape, which is… well, just bad. Aside from the beginnings of it, most of the horror of that sequence is simply visceral.

The thing a lot of us didn’t know up until this DVD release was that Aftermath is part of a trilogy of sorts from director Nacho Cerda. The first part of this trilogy is The Awakening. A student film made by Nacho and which was distributed fairly successfully at a few film festivals. Quite an accomplishment for such a young filmmaker. This loose trilogy of films adds up to basically three views on death. The Awakening shows us the final moments of life, and the release of what death is. Aftermath shows us the physical side of what our bodies go through, as well as what can happen and why we might should think about what we’ll have done with our bodies once we are gone from this world. Then lastly Genesis shows death from the side of the people we leave behind. The Awakening, just like the other two, is a silent short film, since when dealing with death there’s really no need for words Nacho says on the commentary for the disc. Very true, since the pictures tell all the story you could possibly need. This first student film is definitely bumpy with some of the amateurishness popping up a bit in parts but overall it’s better than the majority of student films I bet you’ve seen. The story focuses on a college student in his classroom who dozes off to sleep, and awakens with time standing still. He wanders around the classroom, and begins to flashback on his life from it’s earliest stages. It is finally revealed to him at the end that he is in the midst of dying as he watches himself have a heart attack on the classroom floor. An angel then delivers him to his afterlife. These aren’t really spoilers since these are shorts and story isn’t as important as the way the films are pulled of – but it’s hard to discuss such things without giving you the rundown on the whole features. Anyway, Awakening is a fantastic start for a career and the one thing I didn’t expect from Aftermath was to discover a director that I am now dying to see more work from. Genesis, his final short in this little trilogy, shows us a sculptor who’s wife has passed away and being completely torn apart by it – he sculpts a statue of her from his memory. Slowly though, the statue begins to bleed and wounds begin to appear – and at the same time, he is doing the same, but with sand pouring from his scrapes. It seems the two are switching places. Genesis is probably the best made of the three, and a beautiful short it most certainly is. Like Aftermath, it is shot in 35mm and this time around offers us more color and an even richer performance from Pep Tosar, the star of Aftermath himself. It is a film about the people we leave behind in death, and about how we immortalize those who have passed on. It is simply a somber and wonderful little film that puts a great finishing touch on these films.

For whatever reasons you aim to search these films out; I highly recommend you see them all since you won’t get the full effect if you just go for the gore show of Aftermath. This is a brilliant and intriguing series of films that I am glad to have seen now. With just Aftermath you may see the most intriguing entry in this trilogy, but you won’t be able to form the whole piece in your mind. I know I’m not alone, but I am dying to track down more of Nacho Cerda’s work.