Dave scratches his head at a trippy slice of ’90s post-apocalyptic gubbins.
Being on the receiving end of an irate Michael Caine bemoaning that “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” might have kept actor-writer Michael Standing in the public eye with the occasional tabloid retrospective because without it, his screenplay for post-apocalyptic video store staple AFTERSHOCK would have undoubtedly consigned his career to obscurity.
Not that such an opening jibe should deter you from taking this wild ride, providing you turn a blind eye to the napkin-noted narrative that sees a mullet-haired hero, Willie (Jay Roberts Jr.), busting out of the joint with Danny (Chuck Jeffreys) and a blonde alien called Sabina (Elizabeth Kaitan) in tow. They’re part of a forearm-barcoded, closely monitored, dwindling society in a vicious fascist state governed by rulers like Commander Eastern (Richard Lynch) and his stooge, Quinn (John Saxon).
Quite why the extra-terrestrial Sabina has landed on this barren landscape is open to interpretation, as is her wardrobe choice of a button down crimson dress and impeccably applied make-up. But that’s the beauty of a film like Aftershock, where a cohesive structure plays second fiddle to the action – of which there is plenty. Headed by thrill-seeker extraordinaire James Lew, who was hand-picked by John Carpenter a few years earlier to be the martial arts choreographer of Big Trouble in Little China (1986), it’s a compendium of stunt sequences staged solely to utilise the desolate concrete surroundings of the Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, California. And nor was Aftershock alone in doing so, with Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987) and Donald G. Jackson’s Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) using the mill’s unique landscape either side of it (despite hitting U.S. VHS on 5th October 1990, Aftershock had actually wrapped a full two years earlier).
In the wake of Aftershock, Kaitan had a remarkable career swerve, spending her final film roles alternating between Vice Academy sequels for Rick Sloane and Surrender Cinema softcore for Charlie Band, before becoming the long-term secretary of right-wing firebrand David Horowitz. Considering this, Frank Harris’ film is a definite career highlight for the Hungarian-born actress – although with Russ Tamblyn’s shameful scat session, and Michael Berryman’s lipstick-laden cameo alongside a glistening Matthias Hues, I’m not so sure her illustrious ensemble of co-stars would wish for the same endorsement…
USA ● 1990 ● Action, Sci-Fi ● 91mins
Jay Roberts Jr., Elizabeth Kaitan, John Saxon, Russ Tamblyn ● Dir. Frank Harris ● Wri. Michael Standing