‘Based on a true story’ may be one of the more overused horror movie tropes. Of course, the expression really means ‘loosely based’ or ‘sort of inspired by’. If you’re a believer in the paranormal then maybe there was a haunting in Amityville though it likely didn’t include Rod Steiger chewing the scenery. And there was no ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘ but Ed Gein – who inspired some of Tobe Hooper’s story – was a very real serial killer. Now Netflix’s latest thriller, Aftermath, takes a true crime story and seemingly adapts it into a haunted house story. Or is it?
With his marriage on the rocks, Kevin Dadich takes his therapist’s advice and convinces his wife, Natalie, to buy a new house. New home, new beginnings. And it’s a dream house at a remarkably low price. There’s only one catch – the previous owners died in a murder-suicide. Once they’re moved in, strange things almost immediately occur. Early on they’re just small things – sounds in the night, household items going missing and later re-appearing, items delivered with neither Kevin nor Natalie ever ordering them. But things rapidly escalate into far more chilling warnings. Soon Natalie is convinced that someone – or something – is terrorizing them.
SPOILERS FOLLOW IN THE REVIEW BELOW
Aftermath Haunted By a Moronic Story
Perhaps the lack of a proper trailer was a warning sign. Regardless Aftermath is an absolute stinker of a movie. Chief amongst its sins is a braindead story. Straight out of the gate writer and director Peter Winther adopts an honest approach to handling the ‘haunted house’ challenge. Yes, every haunted house movie needs some reason to for someone to stay. Here, Aftermath establishes that its married couple are just complete idiots. At least Sinister set up a vaguely plausible reason for its true crime author to secretly movie his family into a ‘murder house’. But Winther and co-writer Dakota Gorman have their couple knowingly move into the house because … couples therapy. From that point onward, Aftermath raises one baffling question after another until your head spins.
Here, Aftermath establishes that its married couple are just complete idiots.
Though it’s hard to pick one the fact that a jilted lover would murder his lover and her husband and choose to just live out life inside the walls of their home stands out. Did this man have no job? Friends? How long was he hiding inside the house? When he finally emerges on screen he’s “rail thin” and lacks capacity for basic human communication. That’s some pretty serious regression. If he was sneaking out of his hiding spot to move a tennis ball and send text messages, couldn’t he have grabbed a snack? Come to think of it, if the man has the capacity to send out articulate text messages, why does he look and behave like he’s mindless? And what about Natalie’s sister, Dani? ,Even if she was only dead for a few days, that body (still in the house) would certainly smell.
Aftermath Borrows Familiar Haunted House Tropes From Better Movies
If logic and basic human psychology riddle Aftermath’s story with holes, Winther’s direction doesn’t help. On one hand, Winther steers the movie along with a basic workmanlike competence. Occasionally, Aftermath even conjures up a bit of suspense in spite of its complete reliance on haunted house movie tropes. Dani’s disappearance from a walk-in closet, for instance, works quite well. And Winther’s introduction of the house’s ‘ghost’ is unnerving regardless if you saw it coming or not. Too bad the rest of the movie feels like it’s recycling bits from better movies. Some horror fans may even recognize the big twist from underseen indie horror, The Pact. Or the Gary Busey movie, Hider in the House. Generic made-for-television production values just exacerbate all of these problems.
…it’s hard to tell if former Twilight actress Ashley Greene is mad at her onscreen husband or her role in the movie.
Maybe its cast knew they were in a clunker because some normally reliable actors ghost their own movie. Canadian Shawn Ashmore (The Ruins, Frozen, Devil’s Gate) has a good track record. But he’s sleepwalking his way through Aftermath. And it’s hard to tell if former Twilight actress Ashley Greene is mad at her onscreen husband or her role in the movie. Throughout most of Aftermath, Greene spends her time being gaslit like she’s starring in an early 90s psychological thriller. As for Goliath’s Diana Hopper, her character seems to exist to tease martial conflict, but Aftermath kind of just forgets about her.
Aftermath Not Likely To Scare Horror Fans
If not for a couple of well-executed, creepy scenes near its end, Aftermath would be an F-rated movie. Bottom-line, Aftermath is an afterthought of a horror movie with made-for-television production values, an asinine story, and disengaged performances. So many questions will rush through your head that you won’t have time to be scared. That its director believed he had nearly two hours of material here is the only scary thing about this movie. Maybe casual or non-horror fans scrolling Netflix will enjoy this one. But horror fans should just pass and re-watch The Pact.