Come on in, the water's rotten...
Dir. Nacho Cerda, Spain, 31 minutes
Welcome back to Film Gutter everyone, and for our 'classics month' review this week I truly suggest you don your goggles and pop a peg on your nose, because this week the water pure and simple has a dead body floating in it. Yep, a rotting, stinking corpse. But why should that stop us going for a swim eh? It's time for us to finally brave one of the most notorious short films of all time, a regular feature on many people's 'most disturbing movies of all time' list. Let's get stuck into Aftermath.
Only the second piece of work from the director, Aftermath soon earned itself a reputation as a shocking piece by covering the taboo of necrophilia. The opening shot is certainly an attention grabber – a dog that looks rather like it has been run over, and has its organs pretty well splashed all over the place.
The rest of the action is set within a basement morgue, where we see a little of the everyday running of the place – a male body being delivered by an orderly, before being autopsied. This initial scene of the body being taken apart is presented absolutely unflinchingly. The visuals leave little to the imagination, but one thing that is effective in the first half of the movie – and even more so in the second – is the use of sound. The music in the film is used very sparingly, so what we mostly have is a funereal silence (not a word of dialogue spoken by any of the characters) punctuated by the crunching of bone, the squelching removal of organs and the insidious sound of saws and knives cutting through flesh. It's undoubtedly cleverly done, and is one of the things that makes the whole experience so unsettling.
Ah, but I haven't mentioned the second half yet, have I? The initial autopsy is carried out by two doctors, but when one of them leaves our dark-eyed protagonist is left alone in the morgue. And he doesn't need much of an invitation to find himself a female corpse, lock the door on himself and carry out an absolutely horrible to watch act of necrophilia. First up he takes a knife to the cadaver, stabbing it multiple times before removing much of the skin from the torso.
The very final scene I'm pretty reticent to even go into, but I'm sure it won't take an awful lot of imagination to guess what follows by way of a 'climax'. The use of sound is again horribly illustrative, and there's also a great deal in the performance of our depraved lead that adds to the unease that Aftermath creates. The grunts, groans and loud exhalations tell a story of unnatural excitement and arousal that no amount of dialogue could ever have replaced. It's a rare instance where a character doesn't have a single line in a piece, but in those cases where I have seen it the character in question is usually absolutely psychopathic and deplorable (see Human Centipede II and upcoming review on Headless).
With all the above said, there is distinctly a kind of artistry at work behind this one. Shots are generally very well presented and the sound engineering is impeccable, used for maximum impact and horrendously effective. The music – when it is there – is also very aptly chosen. So as a piece of shock cinema, it work on pretty much every level. An enjoyable experience? Not so much...
RATING: 9/10. This one is genuinely difficult to watch and practically no fun at all at any point. So surely that makes it pretty much the ideal Film Gutter movie? Short, simple, well put together and one that I was damnedly glad to get to the end of. The only reason this one doesn't score maximum points if that there's really no plot, just an awful vignette it'll take a while to bleach from your mind. So, for that reason, it's 9/10 from me.