Roger Corman is undeniably a seminal figure in cinema history. He is a pioneer of innovative, zero budget filmmaking, finding creative techniques to make up for the lack of funding behind his films, and giving a lot of directing heavyweights their big break, including Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich.
In The Aftermath is an interesting example of this, directed by one of Corman’s many proteges, Carl Colpaert. It has an intriguing premise, that combines live action with old school Japanese anime, but ultimately fails to capitalise on this. Two soldiers are on a salvage mission, searching through the rubble of an abandoned nuclear wasteland. After a violent altercation, one of the soldiers begins to have visions of an ethereal girl, wandering though the ruins of another world, clutching a mysterious giant egg.
So far so weird, but when you throw in the fact that the girl from the other world is an hand drawn animated character living in a dystopian war-torn landscape, you’re left with a film that at the very least grabs your attention from the word go.
The animation is lifted wholesale from Mamorou Oshii‘s 1985 film Angel’s Egg, and looks absolutely stunning, especially in this new 2K restoration. Oshii is best known now for his Ghost In The Shell adaptations, but Angel’s Egg is original, if a bit indecipherable. This does raise issues when it comes to judging In The Aftermath on its own merits though, as it’s essentially re-purposing an existing film to create one that’s not really as interesting. If you were feeling generous you could argue that this “repackaging” of Oshii’s film was a way of showcasing the Japanese animation to an audience who may not have been familiar with it at the time, but that is a bit of a stretch.
The live action scenes are still visually inventive, and the set design is a great example of doing a lot with a little. Colpaert makes the most of the barren industrial setting and the limited resources at his disposal. The film also has a great score, which seems at least partly inspired by Akira and Blade Runner. However the performances are wooden, and the original story is sadly uninspired.
Having said this, there are a few stand-out sequences that showcase Colpaert’s direction. The most notable of these features one of the soldiers playing a beautiful piano piece over a montage mixing the live action and animated scenes together. The editing between the two styles is really effective throughout, with striking cuts that give the film a unique feel. Overall though, the philosophical musings just fall a bit flat.
It’s true that if you remove the animated scenes, the story is quite uninteresting, but as a whole it remains an immersive, trippy fever dream. The contrast between meticulously crafted hand drawn animation and rough and ready economic filming style is visually arresting, and makes the first half hour really interesting. Unfortunately though, atmosphere will only get you so far, and the film essentially runs out of plot soon after this.
As an exercise in economic filmmaking, In The Aftermath is innovative and actually pretty admirable, and Colpaert’s ingenuity is clear to see. It has stunning animation (albeit from another film) which are hands down the most memorable aspects of the film. There are also striking visuals and editing in the live action scenes, but the film falters when it tries to be profound, with a plot that is almost incomprehensible. Corman completists and B-movie connoisseurs might love it, but for everyone else it’s only really worth watching as a cinematic curio.