Aug 2, 2013

The Afterman

When it comes to fucked up no-budget arthouse flicks with aberrant allegorical imagery like maggots crawling on ostensibly rotten vaginas, few nations did it better than the Belgians during the late-1960s/early-1980s. Whether it be the castration-anxiety-inspiring avant-garde shorts of Roland Lethem like The Sufferings of a Ravaged Egg (1967) aka Les souffrances d'un oeuf meurtri and The Bloodthirsty Fairy (1968) aka La fée sanguinaire, the proto-Nekromantik cult-shocker Lucker the Necrophagous (1986) directed by Johan Vandewoestijne, the infamous bestiality-based arthouse fever dream about an autistic boy who falls in love with both swine and shit, Vase de Noces (1974) aka Wedding Trough aka The Pig Fucking Movie directed by Thierry Zéno, or the melancholy corpse-cuddling melodrama of Crazy Love (1987) aka Love Is a Dog From Hell directed by Dominique Deruddere, few other nations in the world have shown such a propensity for pumping out perverse flicks despite being a country with virtually nil film industry in the first place like Belgium. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest degenerate gems of fucked Flemish cinema is the delirium-inspiring, post-apocalyptic dystopian flick The Afterman (1985) aka The Afterman: The Fatal Blast directed by controversial auteur Rob Van Eyck (De aardwolf, Blue Belgium). A man not by chance born in the Belgian town of Zichem, apparently one of the only areas completely obliterated by the Spanish during the “Eighty Years War” due to the anti-authoritarian nature of the Dutch, director Rob Van Eyck was expelled from a number of schools during his youth, spurred a micro-revolution at the bank he worked at, and did the seemingly artistically unthinkable by burning one of his own first feature-length films, Ontbijt voor twee (1972), at the Cannes Film Festival of all places to spite his distributor. When introducing The Afterman for a recent DVD (the film had been virtually impossible-to-find for 25 years before), the director gives a pretty good hint as to his character in an introduction where he sardonically states: “Hello, I am Rob Van Eyck, the director of this masterpiece. This is by far the most successful Belgian movie ever and I dare you to see it!” Like the equally underrated Spanish post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick Animales racionales (1983) aka Human Animals, The Afterman is a distinctively dialogue-less film about what happens to people when civilization is taken out of the equation, which naturally revolves around fighting, fucking, and food, albeit in a more relentlessly visceral and violent form. Featuring an uncompromisingly nasty and nihilistic yet strikingly ethereal and otherworldly and ultimately unforgettable hodgepodge of emotionally grating scenarios, including cryogenic necrophilia, unsanctioned sodomy-inspired circle jerks, Sapphic sadomasochism and killer lesbo cunnilingus, white-on-white (sex) slavery, impotent lardos sinking rather slowly in quicksand, corny cannibal clan hoedowns and food fights, melancholy mad monk sodomites who worship a statue of a dude's derriere, and touching family moments, The Afterman is a rare post-apocalyptic flick of wicked charm, wanton wit, and merry misanthropy that takes a detached yet delicate direction in its sardonically disdainful depiction of humanity, as if director Rob Van Eyck attempted to cinematically adapt Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Triumph of Death” (1562) in the spirit of Christoph Schlingensief, Alberto Cavallone, and Jean Rollin. 

 The year is apparently 2003 and a fellow simply credited as “The Man” (played by Flemish Expressionist painter Jacques Verbist), who has the seemingly unbearable honor of growing up in a seemingly state-of-the-art (at least for that time) bomb shelter featuring high tech computer terminals, a warehouse full of food (as a slob-like fat fuck, he eats a whipped cream-like substance straight out of the can!), and a walk-in freezer where he has a beauteous babe cryogenically frozen. After kissing a Polaroid of what one can only assume is him and his mother, watching stock-footage of atom bombs dropping, eating a maggot off a frozen female (which may or may not be his mother) and fucking said frozen female, The Man has the surprise of his life when the computers at the bomb shelter state “Forced Evacuation” after a system malfunction (which concludes with an off-screen explosion) and the rather sedentary fellow is forced to visit the outside world for the first time in his entire lethargic life. As a seemingly socially retarded man who probably suffers from what people describe today as ‘Asperger syndrome,’ The Man makes the anally-fatal mistake of approaching a gang of goofy-looking goons. After touching the leader of the gang on the chest in a dubiously sensual way, The Man is rectally raped by the leader of the group whilst his equally unhinged underlings form a creepy, if not comical, circle jerk. Apparently, sadomasochistic homosexuality is en vogue in the post-apocalyptic world because not long after being pillaged in his pooper, The Man spots a ‘bourgeois’ queen bitch in an indoor pool receiving oral sex from a woman under water. Being a sick Sapphic sadist, the woman does not achieve orgasm until she sinisterly drowns the woman who has her tongue between her legs. While love seems like a lethal phenomenon in the post-civilizational realm, The Man does not give up, especially after spotting a sassy female sex slave on a medieval-like farm. 

 Not long after chowing down on a rather unappetizing live muskrat he has caught trapping, The Man spots a weed-ridden farm owned by a belligerent bald bastard (Nick Van Suyt) and his wife, who the farmer seems disinterested in screwing because he ‘plows’ a caged slave girl (Danielle Detremmerie) in between plowing soil. Probably tired of feeding on muskrat, The Man breaks into the farmer’s house at night, but the boorish bald brute catches him as if he were a ball-less little bitch and puts him in a chicken wire cage with the slave girl. After beating the farmer with a post, The Man manages to escape and brings the slave girl and a sack of ham with him. While initially rebuffing his retarded romantic gestures, the slave girl essentially rapes The Man while he is unconscious after heroically pulling him out of quicksand, thus ushering in the beginning of their relationship as a postmodern caveman couple. Undoubtedly, The Man and the slightly homely slave girl make a rather cute and eccentrically endearing couple, so their trials and tribulations deeply affect the viewer in an artificial, tragicomedic sort of way (or at least they did for me). After the slave girl is kidnapped by a killer clan of bacchanalian cannibals who love to play with their naked human prey as decadently depicted in a scene strikingly reminiscent of the sort of foxy-female-covered-in-food scenarios featured in Dutch auteur Frans Zwartjes’ aberrant-garde epic Pentimento (1979), The Man proves he is no mere chubby coward cuckold by saving his sassy sweet lass’ ass, as well as those of a number of other girls in bondage who seek revenge on the maneaters by literally gouging their eyes out. After making their great escape, The Man and his shield maiden make their way to a maniac monastery full of mad man-loving monks and a hot tub, in which the two share a sacred sensual moment, but little do they suspect that the church is run by sexual sadists in the spirit of vice-venerating villains of Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). Unfortunately, the men of the monastery are debauched colon-chokers who worship a statue of a man’s bare buttocks by kissing it and when The Man makes the mistake of walking on the unholy holy men, he is forced to give a blowjob to a bishop and literally kiss the ass of the statue, which his slave girlfriend walks in on. When The Man and his woman realize that the mad monks are not just a hostile horde of hermetic homos, but also biblical butchers into blood ritual sacrifice, including ripping the hearts out their victims, they naturally run away, but not without driving a pitchfork into one of the holy homo’s throats. Of course, The Man and his little slave lady’s relationship is tested when a rich bitch aristocratic woman with killer lipstick credited as the “Castle Woman” (Dora Raskin), who has her own piano-playing and scantly-dressed Asian housegirl, takes them in and seduces the man. Due to being more than a little preoccupied with the cold and callous yet curiously carnal Castle Woman, The Man forgets about his slave girl lover, only to find her outside laying unconscious and half-frozen in the snow. Of course, even after an apocalyptic holocaust, love still manages to conquer all and The Man and his little lady live happily ever after, but with the imperative addition of a child, thus making them the first nuclear family in a post-nuclear world. 

 Despite its strikingly subversive themes/imagery that sometimes borders on softcore pornography, The Afterman is ultimately a conspicuously ‘cute’ piece of celluloid craziness with an unconventionally ‘uplifting,’ if not misanthropic, message. Indeed, as depicted in The Afterman, ‘forced entry’ (be it anal, vaginal, or oral), collectivist cannibalism, religious buffoonery, S&M homosexuality, and unwarranted ultra-violence are all human psychopathies that every man and woman may possess and are waiting to be released via atavistic fit, with an apocalyptic scenario being the best context as depicted in Van Eyck’s film, but love and family are also innate qualities that human animals possess and ultimately make one forget of homo sapien savagery in the end. Apparently, auteur Rob Van Eyck has recently made two sequels to The Afterman, with Jacques Verbist starring in both films, but only Afterman 2 (2005) is listed on From what I have read, Van Eyck is sort of a reviled figure in his native country of Belgium, largely in part due to his direction of a work entitled Blue Belgium (2000), a film depicting the infamous Walloon serial killer/pedophile Marc Dutroux, who sexually enslaved/starved preteen girls and whose crimes were covered up by the Belgian government and led to a large scandal and a very vocal public outcry which ultimately resulted in the reorganization of the nation’s law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, aside from The Afterman, virtually all of Van Eyck’s other films seem impossible to find. Indubitably, as far as post-apocalyptic artsploitation films go, The Afterman is certainly one of the best, most enthralling and sardonically scatological works ever made, and infinitely more interesting than Luc Besson’s similarly themed Le Dernier Combat (1983) aka The Last Battle. A lavishly lurid piece of celluloid libertine lunacy that manages to reconcile the satirical surrealist works of Belgian auteur Roland Lethem (The Bloodthirsty Fairy, The Sufferings of a Ravaged Egg) and the proto-Goth arthouse works of Dutch polymath Frans Zwartjes (Visual Training, Living) with Australian dsytopian cult classic Mad Max (1979), The Afterman is a hyper-hallucinatory, anarchistically hedonistic, vaguely hopefully look at Occidental man in the post-apocalyptic neo-barbarian age that, at least for a time, makes one forget about all the intrinsically idiotic Hollywood apocalypse flicks like Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) and World War Z (2013) and for that reason alone, Van Eyck’s film must be cherished like a favorite pair of old smelly socks with holes. 

-Ty E

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