Thursday, February 22, 2018

THE AFTERMATH (1982) (VCI Blu-ray Review)


Label: VCI Retro Elite
Region Code: A/1

Rating: Unrated
Audio: English LPCM Stereo 2.0 with Optional English
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Steve Barkett
Cast: Steve Barkett, Lynne Margulies, Sid Haig, Christopher Barkett, Alfie Martin, Forrest J Ackerman, Jim Danforth
The Aftermath (1982) borrows a page from the Planet of the Apes (1968) with an opening scenes of a trio of astronauts returning to Earth after a mission, we have Newman (Steve Barkett), Matthews (Larry Latham), and Williams (Jim Danforth). For reasons unknown they've been unable to get a communications signal from NASA during re-entry and end up ditching the ship without guidance somewhere off the coast of California. One of the astronauts dies during re-entry and the other two swim to shore, they're separated at first and our main guy Newman (Steve Barkett) discovers what appear to be sun bathers on the beach off in the distance, only to discover upon closer inspection that they're charred corpses, victims of a nuclear war that has destroyed most human life on the planet. Regrouping with his fellow astronaut they make a campfire for the night and are attacked by a group of survivor mutants, in the morning they awaken to the startling sight of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles which lays in ruins. They astronauts end up taking over a mansion in the Hollywood hills and begin to make the best of a shitty apocalyptic  situation. 

Along the way they fight more mutant survivors and come to the aid of a woman named Sarah (Lynne Margulies, the girlfriend of late comedian Andy Kaufman) who tells them of a ruthless savage named Cutter, played with vicious enthusiasm by the always awesome (and usually sleazy) Sid Haig (The Devil's Rejects) who along with his band of like-minded cronies roam the area and round up survivors, killing the men and children while raping the women, this is the Hell that Sarah's escaped from. Newman and Sarah strike up a quick relationship, but when tragedy strikes close to home Newman ends up going on a rampage, killing the baddies one by one on one-man killing spree. 

The Aftermath is a fun post-apocalyptic movie in a low-budget regional sort of way, a true independent slice of 70's cinema packed with questionable acting, shallow storytelling, and some iffy, lo-fi science fiction/apocalypse elements, offering a plethora of fun matte paintings and miniatures showcasing the obliterated city scapes.  Writer/Actor/Director Barkett wrote and directed the film, casting himself as the hero but he's not the most charismatic guy, he's very soft spoken, which both works for and against the film. He does a decent job in the hammy action scenes, most of which are poorly staged and choreographed, but in a fun b-movie sort of way. It's bad guy Sid Haig who steals the show as the villain, a scuzzy raper of women and killer of men and children. To my surprise some of the lo-budget gore and brutal killings were affecting, some of the film's sci-fi elements are laughable, such as the spaceship on a string effects from the opening scenes, but the more post-nuke survivor stuff is actually pretty harrowing, though the over-dramatic voice over narration and myth building is way over-cooked.

The film borrows liberally from Planet of the Apes and Last Man on Earth, mixing in some more 70's science fiction stuff and does a lot with very little, but in the wake of Star Wars and Escape from New York this must have looked hokey as Hell. Beloved  Forrest J. Ackerman (Famous Monsters of Filmland) as a museum curator, and the recorded voice of Dick Miller (Gremlins) can be heard on a casette tape in one scene that fills in some of the story of what lead to the apocalypse on Earth. The film is fun but a bit shabby, but you can see this was a labor of love for Steve Barkett and it's that love and indie-spirit that makes this slice of post-nuke cinema so much fun.

Audio/Video: The Aftermath (1982) arrives on a dual-format 2-disc release from VCI Retro Elite, who previously issued the film as MOD DVD-R release, this pressed Blu-ray presents the film from 2017 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, and the results are generally pleasing, colors are robust with a surprising amount of clarity and depth, which is great. Black levels are decent but the shadow detail loses definition, and the grain is unevenly managed, looking natural at times but excessively DNR'd in others, but generally I found it acceptable. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono track, the fidelity is limited, sounding canned at times, boxy dialogue sounds like most of it was dubbed in post-production with out sync sound, so there's a disconnect between the image and sounds, and while I love the score it often drown out any onscreen audio subtlety, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extra VCI carryover the extras from the 1997 laser disc release, these include fifteen minutes of interviews with winter/actor/direct Steve Barkett, his son Chris Barkett and daughter Laura - both of who appear in the film, plus composer John Morgan, producer Fred Olen Ray, and screenwriter Stanley Livingston. There's also still images with notations, offering plenty of great behind-the-scenes images of the special effects work featured in the film, plus there's a prop tour video. These extras ported over from the laser disc play as one 15-min extra and are not viewable separate from each other. 

Onto he new stuff, we get a trailer for the film, plus the 21-min short film Night Caller (19723) a student film also starring actor Steve Barkett and directed by Dan Gilbert. It's a great short film with atmosphere, loved the shocker ending on this one. We also get a nine minute Empire of the Dark (1990) Promo, also directed and starring Steve Barkett, a film about an inter-dimensional satanic cult, which is also slated for a forthcoming Blu-ray release, according to another lengthy text scroll. 

The 2-disc dual-format release comes housed in a standard 2-tray Blu-ray keepcase with a two-sided sleeve of artwork, the a-side featuring the traditional artwork for the film, which is also excerpted for the disc art, the b-side fearing notes on the film regarding the transfer and special features, also directing you to various websites for more info about Steve Barkett. Not the most enthralling of liner notes, mostly replicating the text scrolls from the disc extras. This is the first extra with a rather long text scroll intro, which is a bit dated. The disc also presents the original John Morgan score in lossless LPCM 2.0 audio (also with a text intro), it's a wonderfully dramatic score. 

Special Features: 
- Original Laserdisc Extras (15 min) HD 
- The Aftermath Trailer (3 min) HD 
- Nightcaller (21 min) HD 
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (LPCM 2.0, 23 Tracks) )
- Empire of the Dark Promo (9 min)HD
- The Past 20 Years of Steve Barkett (3 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Actor Steve Barkett and Chris Barkett 

The Aftermath (1982) is a fun, albeit hokey, post-apocalyptic nugget, released in '82 but filmed in the late 70'sit doesn't feel like an 80's movie. If you're a fan of trashy lo-fi post-apocalyptic films (A Boy and His Dog, Omega Man) this one should be on your radar. The new Blu-ray from VCI looks and sounds quite nice, it's not perfect but it's the best the film has ever looked on home video and the extras should please fans of the film.

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