Monday, October 3, 2011
In this short Spanish horror movie, a mortician sticks around after hours at the morgue for some overtime. And by "overtime," I mean he mutilates and rapes a female corpse. Ick.
I think that description right there would be enough to turn most folks off of ever watching Nacho Cerda's Aftermath, but bear with me here. I'm not recommending it, and I didn't even like it too much myself, but it's better-made and more ambitious than you might expect from a film that, on it's surface, seems like the worst, most exploitative trash. It's a 30 minute short, shot without dialogue, although it definitely makes, uh, shall we say strategic use of some very evocative sound effects. Which isn't to say they keep the really nasty stuff off camera; graphically speaking, this one goes there. There's no denying that on a very basic level, this is a work of provocation, but I'd say there's some evident technical skill behind the camera that makes the overall result seem less crass (at least, a little). This isn't some tossed-0ff, low budget, cult audience sleaze; it's a real film with real style, real atmosphere, and real ideas.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say the film might be aiming for some level of disgusting profundity. The film that Aftermath most obviously brings to mind is Stan Brakhage's remarkable, near-unwatchable autopsy documentary/art film The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes. Like that film, I genuinely think that Cerda is trying to grapple directly with the ugly realities of death. As much as this does come off as a bit needlessly vulgar, I think it's clear from the way the film ends with a closeup of the victim's obituary, that our empathy is supposed to lie with the corpse (even if its just a corpse) and not with the necrophiliac. It's not a film designed for the audience to enjoy the gross special effects, it's a film designed to make the audience sad and contemplative. And that's, ultimately, where I think it fails. I'm pretty hardened to this stuff, but Aftermath is just a little too imaginative in its nastiness, and there's a distancing effect. It's aiming for something like existential despair, but I'd say it mainly just succeeds at being gross.
I see that Cerda has another short film or two, plus a horror feature, so I may get around to watching one or more of those before the month's up.