Rob Van Eyck – The Afterman (1985)

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What I have the honor of reviewing here is something totally unique and probably ranks quite high on the worldwide list of obscure Sci-Fi/horror movies. “The Afterman” is a Belgian post-apocalyptic thriller, but even in its own country of release (which is really small) it only received a minimal distribution and finding a decent copy on VHS is about as rare as encountering a salsa-dancing elephant. Fortunately – or unfortunately if you wish – there are not many people on the lookout for this film and that’s mainly either because they don’t know it exists or because the reputation of writer/director Rob Van Eyck isn’t exactly favorable around here. His most famous film “Blue Belgium”, inspired by the infamous Mark Dutroux pedophilia scandal, is generally considered as one of the worst Belgian movies ever and doesn’t really stimulate viewers to check out the director’s other works. Too bad, actually, since “The Afterman” is a truly special and deeply intriguing cinematic experiment, accomplished with an absolute minimum of financial means yet with a massive amount of controversial themes and downright shocking ideas in the screenplay.The rudimentary plot outline is somewhat reminiscent to “The Omega Man”, with a sole man trying to stay alive in a post-nuclear wasteland and the constant threat of other bewildered survivors trying to take advantage of him or even to kill him. Only the concepts of the two films are similar, as the elaboration of “The Afterman” is completely different. There’s no dialog in the film and – mostly due to budgetary restrictions – no use of special effects or impressively staged action sequences whatsoever. At the beginning of the film, the nameless main character is still safely entrenched in a nuclear bomb shelter. He has been there since the bomb, or whatever caused the apocalypse, and fills his days eating maggots and making love to a frozen female cadaver. When a short circuit forces him to leave the hideout he’s initially enthusiast to learn he’s not the only remaining human being left on the planet, but he quickly learns that it’s every man for himself now. His first encounter with a group of drifters results in a painful male rape scene, and perverse sexual satisfaction remains the leitmotiv throughout the entire movie. The man subsequently encounters a murderous lesbian millionaire, a couple of farmers that keep a girl locked up in a cage, a sect of fellatio-practicing monks and a sleazy type of society that imprisons women and throws food and sex orgies. The girl that the man freed following a deadly encounter with the farmers stays with him and a strange relationship develops between them, exclusively revolving on – you guessed it – sexual intercourse.

The strongest aspect about “The Afterman” is that writer/director Rob Van Eyck clearly realized what his weaknesses were, so he successfully came up with imaginative ways to work around them. For example, there wasn’t any budget to build any genuine apocalyptic-styled sets & scenery like demolished remnants of civilization or futuristic vehicles. Van Eyck worked around this by never really specifying the actual date of the nuclear catastrophe. The protagonist only comes out of his hideout when he’s forced to, so far all we know he has remained there for decades whilst the ecology outside had the chance to repair itself. Out there on the surface there are birds singing and crops growing, so maybe the actual apocalypse happened ages ago. Another obvious obstacle was that there aren’t any professional actors in the cast. That’s okay, though, since their acting duties are limited to stripping off their clothes and walk around with terrified faces. Seeing they don’t have any lines to speak, there’s also no risk of coming across as bad or incompetent actors. If you manage to overlook the poor production values, you might conclude that “The Afterman” is a really worthwhile and provocative Sci-Fi gem. There are copious of depraved undertones and insinuations in the screenplay, like male rape and necrophilia, and the film approaches all these controversial themes in a very nihilistic fashion; like its human behavior of the most ordinary kind. Through the ensemble of loathsome characters and the total lack of dialog, director Rob Van Eyck often manages to create an intense atmosphere of hopelessness and morbidity. The sex sequences are a bit numerous and, in some cases, terribly overlong (like the lesbian footage near the beginning) but that’s hardly something to complain about much.



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