THE AFTERMAN (1985) – Balladeer’s Blog’s Weirdness at the End of the World category of movies returns with this bizarre little honey. The Afterman also marks the return of my sub-category “Those Darn Belgians.” Yes, just like Rabid Grannies this flick was created in Belgium.
Written and directed by Rob Van Eyck, The Afterman is in color but features no dialogue outside of periodic screams and groans. You might think that qualifies this roughly 90 minute movie as an Arthouse Film, and many people do. I would instead call it a sleazy and exploitative blend of The People Who Own the Dark, Finis Homini and Quest for Fire.
The story opens up in the year 2011. For twenty years our lead character, called simply the Man, has been living in a high-tech bomb shelter. The shelter was stocked with plenty of aerosol spray-food from “futuristic” 1991, when the nukes fell. Elaborate security cameras and leftover news reels have been almost the only diversions the Man has had for two decades, aside from drawing sketches.
The “almost” leads us to my need to let readers with more conventional tastes know that this is ANOTHER of those weirdass movies that would likely gross you out physically and prove morally repugnant. I’m never sure if these warnings make people avoid reviews like this or drive people TO read them, but here we go – DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO AVOID DISTURBING DETAILS.
The Man (Jacques Verbist) looks like a tubby, bearded Dustin Hoffman and often reminisces by looking at old photos of himself as a little boy with a woman we can assume was his mother. He apparently has been in this bomb shelter since he was about 9 or 10 years old, which explains some of his seeming simple-mindedness later in the film.
Our main character kisses the woman in the pictures … then makes his way to a cold storage unit where her dead body has been lying for who knows how long. She shows no major signs of decomposition, outside of a worm that crawls out of her body only to be eaten by the Man.
Setting the tone for the subsequent grotesque sex scenes which litter The Afterman, he mounts the cold, naked body to have sex with it. Sometime later, after he’s fully clothed again, the Man is startled when the automated bomb shelter signals that its power and food supply are exhausted and its systems are shutting down as programmed. The door to the shelter opens automatically and our main character ventures out into the world.
The Man at first finds open countryside, undrinkably dirty water and no people. He soon wishes it had stayed that way when he comes across a half-dozen armed men who are thoroughly unwelcoming. The hostile gang subject the Man to anal rape before leaving him in a heap as they wander off.
As the days go by our “hero” finds streams with clear enough water to drink and manages to capture and eat muskrats raw. He’s learned to hide from any other people he spots and one day comes across what seems to be another bomb shelter built into the side of a mountain, like the one he and his mother lived in.
The Man cautiously peeks inside, and sees that it is inhabited by two lovely lesbians, one of whom is clearly the dominant one. He observes them enjoying themselves in their hot tub having sex. At length the submissive woman dives under the water to perform orally on the dominant one. The dom is having such a great time that she inadvertently prevents her mate from surfacing before she drowns.
As the top lesbian’s cries of grief fill the air, the puzzled and frightened Man flees the scene. More time goes by, but whether it’s hours or days is never made clear. It’s that kind of movie. The Man now spots a dilapidated building being used as a farm by a cruel bald, muscular man (Nick Van Suyt) and his wife.
The couple use a chained young beauty (Danielle Detremmerie) as slave labor to help them run their meager farm. The Man sees how the farmer forces himself on Danielle – whom I’ll call the Woman from this point on – whenever he pleases while still oinking and boinking with his wife at night.
I can’t emphasize enough how the sex scenes in The Afterman lack even prurient appeal. Through tradecraft or mere ineptitude Van Eyck presents all the sex in matter of fact, unglamourous ways that drive home the impersonal nature of it all. The performers – outside of the Woman – all have Real World bodies, too, further driving away any voyeuristic feel.
At any rate, at night the farmer and his wife lock the Woman in a wire cage outside their humble dwelling. Our tubby, bearded Dustin Hoffman sneaks over to try to free her, only to get caught by the farmer and beaten into unconsciousness. (The Man STILL hasn’t learned to arm himself.)
The Man and the Woman are imprisoned in the same cage, where she viciously repels his sexual advances. The pair are forced to fight each other for the scraps of food thrown into their cage and spend their days chained and forced into laboring on the farm, even pulling the farmer’s plow like a pair of oxen.
One day the Man manages to free himself from his leash and beats the farmer to death. While his wife weeps over his dead body, the Man loots the farmhouse of all the food he can carry in a fur bag and journeys onward, with the wary Woman following him at a cautious distance.
Giving the film its due, by this point I was a bit intrigued by the way The Afterman seemed to be intentionally stripping away the romanticized, adventurous view of a post-apocalyptic world seen in action flicks like The Road Warrior and its many 1980s imitators. Like the sex scenes, the fight scenes are as awkward as those in real life, with no choreography and with fairly out of shape participants.
In the days ahead, the pair scare a wandering man into abandoning his suitcase of supplies and fleeing from them. The Man and the Woman loot the suitcase and, as more time rolls along, the Woman grows comfortable enough to get sexually intimate with the Man on a regular basis. None of these sex scenes are filmed in flattering ways, either.
I don’t care what your sexual preference is, The Afterman presents the most unappealing sex scenes you may ever encounter. They’re like anti-aphrodisiacs. Not only do you feel like you need a shower yourself, you feel like showering everybody else … and THAT lame joke is more titillating than anything you will see in this film.
Back to the story, as Mute Max and the Woman journey onward, they come to more and more ruined and uninhabited buildings. While staying in a run-down greenhouse, our First Couple start using fire to cook their food and keep themselves warm.
A gang of men come across them, beat up the Man (who still goes around unarmed) and abduct the Woman. Eventually our tubby, bearded Dustin Hoffman manages to find the Woman. She is being held captive along with a few other women by the same gang, who turn out to be cannibals. They consume alcohol, presumably distilling it themselves, and have sex with women while consuming the cooked remains of their previous sex-slaves.
When these repulsive men tire of their latest female captives, they cook and eat them and abduct other women to replace them. The Man succeeds in freeing his mate AND the other women in another intentional or UNintentional downplaying of any and all “heroic” aspects of his accomplishment. There’s no exhilaration from the violence in the scene and certainly no chivalric airs to the successful rescue.
Some of the women attack and gouge out the eyes of one of their male captors while others flee in random directions. Mute Max and the Woman head off on their own but are soon being closed in on by two of the pursuing cannibal gang.
Just in time, the Man and Woman come to a fortress-like monastery, where the fleeing, terrified couple are allowed in, but their pursuers kept out, since the monks are apparently familiar with that gang’s nature.
Danielle and our tubby, bearded Dustin Hoffman are fed soup by the monks and permitted to bathe in their spacious in-ground tub. The Woman is allowed to dress normally but the Man is clothed only in a long nightshirt like all the other non-monk men in the place.
Periodically, those unhappy looking men in nightshirts are made to accompany five or six monks at a time for mysterious reasons. The Man learns what’s going on one day when he is forced to so accompany multiple monks to a room. Once inside he is forced to his knees and made to fellate each monk to orgasm.
The Man’s struggles against this fate are in vain, as he is outmuscled by the pale, dark-circle eyed monks standing around him. When they are all done with Mute Max, he is forced to join them in kissing the bare buttocks of a sculpture of a man’s torso and backside. I’m serious.
The Woman surreptitiously followed and saw what the monks did to the Man. The next day she curiously follows a group of monks leading one of their nightshirted “guests” outside, which she has never seen them do before.
Once the group reaches a designated spot, they use a sacrificial dagger to kill the victim in a nightshirt and carve out his heart to be eaten. The Woman flees back to the monastery, communicates the danger to the Man (off screen) and the pair exit the place, intent on escaping.
One of the monks tending their graveyard tries to stop them, but Mute Max uses the monk’s own pitchfork to kill him. The Man and the Woman succeed in getting away.
Our lead characters haven’t been back on the run for too long before they come across one of the members of the cannibal gang, who are apparently still hunting down their escaped captives. The Man and the Woman are rescued when a high-class beauty (Dora Raskin) whose land they are on shoots the cannibal to death with her elephant rifle.
The mature Grand Dame then welcomes our two leads into her fortified castle. Apparently the Castle Frau’s guns & ammunition keep her safe and in charge of her domain. This Grand Dame shares her castle with a young Asian woman who plays the piano for her and her new guests while they eat dinner with said Grand Dame.
Despite hints that the Castle Frau and the Asian woman are sexually involved, our Grand Dame is apparently in the mood for the first non-crazy male she’s seen in a long time – the Man. The gun-wielding lady of the manor shamelessly vamps the Man during dinner, causing the Woman to angrily leave the table.
Before long, the Castle Frau has her Asian servant primp her for the Man, including painting her fingernails. After Mute Max has sex with the Grand Dame, the jealous Woman flees into the falling snow, not caring if she lives or dies now.
In a genuine surprise twist, the Man abandons the cozy, warm castle where he’d be the lone man with a pair of attractive women and goes off after the Woman. Finding her collapsed in the snow, he nurses her back to health, apparently.
Now we get a jump in time of several years. The Man and the Woman are still together and have had a son who looks around five years old. The trio reach a beach somewhere, and despite the obviously cool weather, they frolic on that beach as much as they can. (By the way, we see that the Man has finally learned to carry a firearm with him.)
And so The Afterman comes to a close. You can decide for yourself if it’s a happy ending or not. Maybe if we were shown the Man, Woman and Child as part of an entire colony of survivors it would be happy, but as it is it’s barely a postponement of the inevitable.
I threw in what little positive impressions I have of the film as my review went along. Having heard for years about how unappetizing The Afterman is, I’ve been intentionally saving it for the very last 1980s post-apocalypse movie I watch. I still have plenty more to review, but this bizarre, off-putting flick was the last one I had yet to watch.
Check out this movie if you must. Even as much as I love weird cinema I have no plans to ever watch it again.
FOR MY REVIEW OF 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS CLICK HERE.
FOR MY REVIEW OF ENDGAME CLICK HERE.