I was really disappointed by this after reading tons of reviews telling how good and realistic-looking it was. Not gory, disgusting or shocking at all. And it was too obvious that the dolls were made of cheap rubber. Just plain boring.
Spanish director Nacho Cerda's 3 short films The Awakening (1991), Aftermath (1994) and Genesis (1998) which are powerfully disturbing pieces of art. Aftermath deals with the unwholesome subject of necrophilia while Genesis neatly perverts the Pygmalion myth. Entirely devoid of dialogue, the films beg you to become involved in the proceedings and show Cerda's sizeable talent as a director and visual stylist. The Awakening deals primarily with the fear of what lies beyond the borders of mortality, shot in black and white it serves nicely as the first chapter of his so-called "Death Trilogy."
The second short Aftermath is as controversial as it is formidable. Two morticians are seen dissecting a couple of corpses. They saw and dismember the bodies and remove and replace organs all in lovely and convincing detail. After some needed cleanup our lead attendant is left alone to his own devices. An excruciating yet captivating thirty minutes of celluloid you will never forget.
The third short Genesis isn't nearly as gruesome, but does have the same claustrophobic atmosphere. A sculptor is seen preserving his dead wife's image in stone. As it nears completion the statue inexplicably starts to bleed. Visibly distraught, the artist delicately attempts to repair his cherished work of art to no avail. While I do understand the director's intentions, I must admit that I found this short to be a bit boring.
Accompaning the trio of films is a wealth of extra features, all tied to their respective films. Each film is accompanied by a friendly and relaxed commentary by Cerda, who is humble about his creative origins and explains his obsession with mortality, as well as the obvious challenges faced with a filmmaker trying to gather funding, resources and talent for a film so radically removed from anything resembling mainstream acceptability. Mr. Cerda also recently tried his hand into feature films with the promising, but ultimately confused After Dark Horrorfest presentation, The Abandoned. Anyway, do you like arthouse. Do you also like gore? Then you've come to the right place, just don't expect a proper narrative or anything mainstream.
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...
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.
Spanish anomaly Nacho Cerda shines here with two short films made during the '90s - too bad the Spanish government don't hire him to direct autopsy films for aspiring young surgeons, the man can make dissection jump from the screen like no other.
"Aftermath" concerns a surgeon - an aspiring one perhaps, or just some dude from the street - whom dissects and copulates with a corpse. Why? she was the protagonist in a car crash that left the rapist's dog maimed, that's why, and boy is she going to pay, even in death. "Genesis" is far more gentle, describing a man who attempts to resurrect his dead wife in clay, which slowly animates itself and becomes organic as the man transforms into a *kouros* himself. High production values for such morbid cinema to be sure, and considering Cerda later made "The Abandoned" in 2006 which rather sucked, these films are his highpoint in a way.
Watch them in the bath to prevent your soul oxidising, don't let the TV set fall in or anything.