The only thing that keeps the recently released thriller Aftermath from being your standard Lifetime thriller is the profanity, violence and sexual content. It’s a bit longer than the 95-minute thrillers that you see on cable TV. And that is it’s problem.
If Aftermath had been a little shorter and a little tighter, it would’ve been a surprise B-movie thriller, but it uses the same tropes and cliched elements you’ve seen before time and time again.
Shawn Ashmore plays Kevin Dadich who works for a company that cleans up gory crime scenes and the movie opens on the aftermath (get it?) of a reported murder-suicide that we hear over the opening credits. Kevin and his wife, Natalie (Ashley Greene), a fashion designer, are in an estranged marriage after she cheated on him. Kevin was suffering from depression after the suicide of his brother.
So the title refers to a lot of things. A therapist basically tells them figuratively their first marriage is over. So, they’re trying to rebuild their relationship and decide to move into the house he just finished cleaning up with his workers (who seem to spend more time cracking jokes than working.) If this was a slasher movie, they’d be one of the first few killed. Even one shows up eating at the scene. And we’ve seen this many times before of corners, medical examiners, and even cops eating burgers, hoagies and pizzas at bloody crime scenes.
They get the house for a discounted rate, you know because of the whole murder thing, but immediately notice there trouble in Denmark. The AC thermostat keeps going down to as low as in the 30s. Their dog, Odi, barks at certain things and seems scared. If you’ve seen this before, you know Odi is going to be taking a trip across Rainbow Bridge before the end credits roll.
But other odd things start happening. Porno magazines arrive in the mail as well as a shipment of about $2,000 of porno movies arrives in the mail. Kevin hasn’t ordered neither of them.
And when she’s alone at the home, Natalie notices odd things around the house such as a ball for Odi appearing in places it couldn’t be without someone putting it there. She also suspects someone might be in the house, but doesn’t know if she’s dreaming or it’s real. She’s been on medication but has been off it recently. Is she hallucinating?
Believe it or not, Peter Winther actually does direct it in tense ominous tone. According to his credits, he’s worked as a producer on movies directed by Roland Emmerich.
Kevin has returned to college and is partnered with a younger co-ed, Avery (Diana Hopper) on a class project. Then, Natalie discovers her contact with this big business deal is Nick (Ross McCall), the man she was having an affair with.
This sets up two people who could be behind the odd occurrences. And in both ways, there’s a clever way it does this. I’d even give it some credit for a low-budget less stellar thriller, it leaves your head scratching especially if you’ve seen thrillers with these twists before.
But if you have, you also know about what Roger Ebert called the Law of the Extraneous Character. And this movie also has what I like to call the Double Twist, when it’s revealed that a character we’ve seen before was up to no good, but there’s a worse character. Movies like The Bodyguard, Malice and Kiss The Girls are just a few to do this that I can think of off the top of my head.
That being said, the Double Twist here seems not to make much sense except to go back to the murder-suicide at the beginning. Also, there is a scene halfway through in which another character falls victim to the odd occurrences to make the Double Twist seem less like a cheat.
The title card reading “Inspired by true events.” This is no different than the “Ripped from the headlines” TV police procedurals use. So, be warned. The movie is based mostly on a case involving homeowners in 2011. But it also references another case that happened in the early 20th Century as well as some other cases involving fake social media posts and fake classifieds.
Like, I said, if it had been a little shorter, this movie would get a more favorable review. The whole dinner scene with Kevin, Natalie and her mother, Farrah (Susan Walters), is just unnecessary. Also, there’s too many of the Husband-Who-Doesn’t-Believe-His-Wife tropes that it becomes redundant. Even as she begins to notice pictures taken of herself sleeping on her phone, he doesn’t believe her.
It’s worth watching once just for the heck of it. There are some good moments.
The cast includes actors you’ve seen in bigger movies. Ashmore played in the first three X-Men movies. Greene was in the Twilight movies. Walters played Delores/Mulva in that famous Seinfeld episode.