By: Drexl on January 4, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Unearthed Films (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3 (The Awakening). 1.85:1 (Aftermath). 2.35:1 (Genesis). (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 1.0. English Subtitles. 70 minutes
The Movie
Director: Nacho Cerda
Starring: Pep Tosar, Trae Houlihan
Screenplay: Nacho Cerda
Music: Mark Cowling, Juan Sanchez
Country: Spain
Year: 1990, 1994, 1998
It's funny how the advent of DVD and the Internet has made the film collector/fan's life much easier - it's brought Fulci to the masses and made a large amount of those previously obscure Franco flicks easily available to anyone with a credit card. No more trading of third-gen boot's that made even the most carefully composed Argento sequence look like a smudgy mess - simply click away and a few days later a pristine, remastered print drops through your letterbox. If, a few years ago, you had said to me that I would be able to purchase a collectors edition of Nacho Cerda's Aftermath from a major e-tailer I probably (no, make that definitely) wouldn't have believed you. It is true though, DVD has brought corpse-fucking - remastered, 5.1, 16/9 enhanced widescreen, corpse-fucking at that - to your local video store or your favourite on-line DVD dealer. Hurrah!

While the box carries the title Aftermath/Genesis, this release is in actual fact a three film set kicking off with The Awakening - a short (8 mins) movie and the first part of the trilogy (the 'Death Trilogy'.) Set in a school classroom and lacking any dialogue apart from a short voice-over and some background chatter, The Awakening is a brief Tales Of The Unexpected/Twilight Zone style creeper that carries a very easy to guess twist. Although seasoned horror fans will see the ending coming from a mile away The Awakening is lifted above the routine by neat camerawork and effective use of sound.

The second chapter in the trilogy and the box-shifter of the set is 1994's notorious Aftermath. Set almost exclusively in a hospital morgue, Aftermath is a 30 minute endurance test that sent cinema audiences racing for the exit or diving under the seats to puke. Again shot without dialogue, Aftermath deals with the grisly after-hours hobby of an autopsy room worker - think pretty female victim on the slab, locked door and a camera and your worst suspicions are correct. Graphic and bloody, Aftermath is as grim as you've heard it to be, helped along by some pretty impressive special effects and an unflinching camera. Again, Cerda throws a little twist into the end of the movie.

Genesis completes the set with a tale of lost love and the ones left behind. Pep Tosar (star of Aftermath) returns as a sculptor who is carving a memorial to his wife/girlfriend who has been killed in a road accident. The sculpture holds pride of place in his otherwise grotty apartment. As the work progresses the sculpture begins to bleed and parts of Tosar's body start to become encased in clay. Unfazed, Tosar continues with his work, the one meaningful thing left in his life.

It's pretty easy to sell this collection of short films to the gorehounds out there, the notoriety of the second chapter takes care of that. Yes, Aftermath is as grim and graphic as you expect/heard it to be. Skulls are carved open, brains are removed, intestines are fondled and then stuff gets really heavy. It'll certainly send Granny to an early grave and frighten away any unwelcome visitors you may have but there is more to be found here, especially when viewed as a part of the trilogy and not a separate short. These films look at three stages of death - point of, after, and the effect the death of a loved one has on others. The lack of dialogue in these shorts allows the viewer even more 'space' to draw their own conclusions about what is put before them. Cerda mentions that Aftermath was born from his own fear of death so you could consider the horrific treatment of the female corpse in chapter two to be an expression of that fear (frozen and helpless) while other viewers might view the body as discarded and useless so whatever fate awaits it is irrelevant. Genesis could be considered a neat, Twilight zone type short or a genuinely sad love story with a sting in the tale. Draw your own conclusions, I would figure that that is what the director intended anyway.

Whatever your take on these movies - genuinely thought-provoking trilogy or a gorefest with two space-fillers, I doubt anyone could fail to be impressed by the technical quality of Cerda's work. The photography is, at times, quite breathtaking and never anything less than impressive. One particular scene in Genesis stands out as a good example - the sculptor projects a home-movie of his lost love onto the 'face' of the sculpture. Utterly stunning and better than anything Argento has dreamed up in the last ten or fifteen years. Is it possible to make a film about corpse-fucking arty and visually appealing? It would seem so. Cerda also makes wonderful use of music to add to the punchy visuals - the man clearly has style to burn and, happily, this trilogy has earned him a shot at a full-length feature. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a larger budget.
While The Awakening does carry some grain and (very) minor print damage Unearthed can hardly be criticised for it and the first chapter of the trilogy looks as good as it ever will. The two following chapters are blessed with stunning transfers; colourful, detailed and completely free of blemishes and grain. Believe me, you never dreamed that these films would look this good. Top drawer stuff.
The 5.1 tracks on offer are up to the same high standard as the video with the surround speakers used to great effect. The music scores are beautifully reproduced. Outstanding.
Extra Features
Cerda provides a wealth of bonus materials in the form of interviews, making of's and commentary tracks. Cerda speaks excellent English and babbles away happily, providing bundles of information for each chapter. As an extra bonus, Jorg Buttgereit shows up for a chat about his and Cerda's output and extreme cinema in general. (Viewers planning on checking out Buttgereit's Nekro double bill might want to look away from the screen during this bonus feature as it gives away a great many of the 'surprises' in JB's notorious double-bill.)

Add to the above bundles of behind-the-scenes and production photographs, storyboards, screenplays and trailers for some of Unearthed's other releases and you have a disc that truly earns the 'special edition' tag. The menus are animated and scored and the package also contains a short booklet carrying a little background info and short reviews.

Finally, although not an extra feature as such, it's worth mentioning that this release is available with two different pieces of coverart. The 'mainstream' online e-tailers and high-street stores get the milder version while 'specialist' suppliers (Xploited and the like) get the more graphic coverart, (similar to the VHS release of a few years ago.)
The Verdict
Three terrific short movies that deliver as stand-alone pieces but even more so when viewed as a three act work. The blood-thirsty viewer will get his or her money's worth from the second chapter and anyone happy to delve beyond the gore and 'difficult' subject matter will find some though-provoking material and gorgeous photography to enjoy. Unearthed have given us audio/video transfers of the highest standard and bundles of excellent bonus materials, plus they deserve credit for actually releasing such a controversial piece of cinema in the first place.

All of the above adds up to one of the best genre DVDs of the year and an essential purchase for fans of extreme and/or unusual cinema.

Movie Score
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