“Aftermath” is a sluggish, convoluted domestic horror thriller that can’t be rescued by a fierce turn by its leading lady, “Twilight” alumna Ashley Greene.
If you can make it to the ridiculously drawn-out and absurd finale — and Rotten Tomatoes has its running time wrong, it’s close to two hours — you’ll witness a good actress giving her all even when things go from straining credulity to nonsense.
Greene plays Natalie, a clothing designer struggling to get her marriage to Kevin (Shawn Ashmore of TV’s “The Rookie” and “The Ruins” and “Darkness Falls”) back on track after a “betrayal.”
They’re in counseling.
She’s struggling to get her designer dress shop open. He’s quit college, taken up working with a biohazard crime-scene cleanup team (Travis Coles and Jamie Kaler) prone to making wisecracks about a suicide victim creating “a Jackson Pollock on the wall” of their latest job.
And that’s when Kevin gets a really good deal on a house. That suicide wasn’t just a guy eating a pistol. He murdered his wife first. Despite her doubts, the fact that he didn’t consult her before starting the process, and despite the “disturbing” history of the house, Natalie goes along with this “fresh start.”
They move in, their dog starts whimpering at closed doors and bumps in the night. Because the dog ALWAYS knows. And Natalie starts seeing things and hearing other things, a “slender, pale” figure slipping into the house, using the restroom.
“Pump the BRAKES on the melodrama!” her husband barks. But he’s wondering about the strange things going on, the bizarre subscriptions that turn up at their door, the firebomb somebody tosses into their car.
Sharif Atkins plays the skeptical cop, Britt Baron is Natalie’s easily-spooked sister, Diana Hopper is the cute and flirtatious coed Kevin shares a class with as he heads back to school,
Paula Garcés is the sister of the previous owner and Alexander Bedria is her husband.
Yes, I’m leaving a few others out. It’s a seriously cluttered tale, as far as excess characters are concerned.
And yes, you can tell from the extensive cast that some effort was made to trick the viewer, or at least throw us off the scent and keep us from guessing where this is going. Screenwriter Dakota Gorman tries to have her horror, and her psychological thriller, too, and doesn’t let “plausible” slow down her type-type-typing.
“Aftermath” plays around with the mistrust in the aftermath of an affair and ghosts that horror convention suggests linger in the places where their lives ended. But Gorman gets lost in trying to rationally explain all of this while losing track of all that.
A savvy viewer’s first eyerolls turn up long before Kevin’s “Pump the brakes” crack, and continue apace through the thoroughly conventional climax.
Perhaps the filmmakers’ grasp exceeded their reach, or maybe neither screenwriter nor director could see what a mess it was before the camera rolled. Either way, it’s an untidy, unfocused and unsatisfying thriller that won’t gild anybody’s resume.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, sex, profanity
Cast: Ashley Greene, Shawn Ashmore, Britt Baron, Sharif Atkins, Diana Hopper, Travis Coles and Jamie Kaler.
Credits: Directed by Peter Winther, scripted by Dakota Gorman. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:54