Dead Space: Aftermath
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // $34.99 // January 25, 2011
Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 14, 2011
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
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E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a terrible person and have never gotten around to picking up any of the Dead Space videogames. I did check out Dead Space: Downfall, the first
Yeah, don't expect to see a lot of stuff like this happening.
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direct-to-video animated spin-off, though, so I felt like I had some idea what to expect the second time around. So, how do you follow up a lean, brutal splatterfest pitting a ragtag group of survivors against legions of undead mutants? With a story about a fist-sized rock, I guess. Oh! And scene after scene after scene after scene of people wandering around and talking. Don't wanna forget that. I guess the idea is that Aftermath further fleshes out the mythology of the Dead Space universe. The problem's that the mythology doesn't get any deeper than "alien rock makes people crazy", and you're 45 minutes into a 71 minute flick (minus end credits) before you catch sight of a single zombie.

I appreciate that Aftermath tries to do something a little different, at least. Rather than sticking to the straightahead structure of Downfall, this followup opens with Aegis-7 a smoldering memory. Only four survivors remain from the crew of the USG O'Bannon (O'Bannon! Get it?), and some sinister, shadowy government organization or...something is questioning them one by one to find out what the hell happened. Each interrogation begins with a computer simulation of the subject's most intense fear, because...???...and then a fragment of the story is revealed in flashback. It pretty much boils down to:
  1. Alien rock infects an otherwise likeable guy, compels him to go nuts, and he kills a bunch of people.
  2. The survivors go somewhere else.
  3. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The first two-thirds of Aftermath don't amount to much more than endless wheel-spinning. The first Dead Space animated flick dove into the outbreak and started sloshing around the red stuff remarkably quickly. Aftermath, meanwhile, is a slow, tedious slog. For most of the movie, the body count is anemic, there's very little blood, and the spurts of action are short and sparse. I honestly thought after a while that there weren't going to be any necromorphs or unhinged alien monsters at all. It's just a parade of boring characters standing around and doing boring things. I don't care about the rock that was salvaged from Aegis-7. I don't care about the ex-marine who's so delusional after the death of his little girl that he sees her ghostly image everywhere, is convinced she's still with him, and won't shut up about it. I don't care about the one-armed guy whose brother or cousin or whatever was bludgeoned to death. I don't care about the dweeby scientist guy's family issues or the affair he's carrying on with that foxy Korean chick in the lab coat. I don't care about the nefarious investigator types that are torturing their way towards a connection to the alien fragment. Dead Space: Aftermath goes out of its way to be as aggressively dull as possible. How can a flick where an entire planet explodes and a sprawling ship teeming with innocent people are brutally slaughtered be this boring? Can't you flashback to something happening instead? There's no sign of anything all that necromorphic until right at two-thirds of the way in. Things get more lively from there -- acid spit, dismemberment, and a whole helluva lot more blood -- but it's far too little, far too late. It doesn't help that the creatures really aren't that menacing, and the tension's deflated since we already know who waltzed out of there in one piece.
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Just...nothing about Dead Space: Aftermath works. The screenplay lazily strings together one genre trope after another. There really aren't any surprises at all, and supposedly horrifying imagery like spiders exploding out of some schlub's mouth, a ghostly kid with blood streaming out of her eyes, or -- oops! -- mistaking dearly beloved family members for hideously deformed mutants just come across as ridiculous. To show off how finger-wagglingly unrated it is, there's some cropped sex, a few jiggling boobs, and a lot of people awkwardly shoehorning "fuck" into their dialogue. The characters are straight across the board forgettable. Ditto for the voice actors, although the Boris Badenov Russian guy and the captain with his "happinesh ish a warm gun, Mish Moneypenny" Scottish brogue will always hold a special place in my heart. All the money shots are crammed into the space of twenty minutes or so, with just about everything else coming across as dead air. Worst of all...? Aftermath uses two very different animation styles to separate the past and present (or if you want to be nitpicky, the future and the even-more-future, but whatever). The flashbacks are animated in an anime-influenced style, while the wraparounds are tackled with CG. The thing is that the computer animation looks like I'm playing a PC game circa 1995 or something. It's stiff, almost completely devoid of detail, and stacked against largely empty backgrounds. Watch these awkwardly animated characters run and try not to laugh. That's a dare! A challenge! Or better yet, just stay away altogether. Skip It.


Video
Dead Space: Aftermath is in the running as the single worst looking animated title on Blu-ray. Maybe it's unfair to ding down the overall score because of the embarrassingly shoddy computer-animated wraparounds -- there's not a format past, present, or future that could salvage that -- but I don't care. The CG animation is inept on every conceivable level, and it's dragged down further by some aliasing and shimmering in the linework. The shadowing is so clumsy that it's tough to tell where that ends and the unintended posterization begins. Heavy banding definitely plagues flares, fades, and the excruciatingly bland backgrounds, though. On the upside, at least you can tell that these CG sequences were rendered in high-def. The traditional animation...? Not so much. The linework is so soft that it's just about indistinguishable from an upconverted DVD. But hey...! Don't take my word for it.
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Dead Space: Aftermath pales in comparison to...well, just about every other animated release I've come across on Blu-ray, up to and including the previous Dead Space flick. I have nothing even a little bit positive to say about the visual end of things on this Blu-ray disc. If you're interested in the technical specs, though, Dead Space: Aftermath is served up on a single-layer platter and is letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. I didn't spot any hiccups in the AVC encode, but honestly, the sheer volume of Ugly on display here tends to distract me from that sort of thing.


Audio
At least it sounds
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nice enough. Dead Space: Aftermath is packing a reasonably cinematic six-channel, 24-bit Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The voice acting is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly throughout. The havoc that's wreaked coaxes thundering waves of bass from the subwoofer, and the surrounds are teeming with skittering creatures, the snarls of the undead, and oodles of atmospheric effects. A concerted effort has been made to create a sense of directionality, and this extends to the film's dialogue. There are times when the effect works wonderfully. On the other hand, it's extremely disorienting when a character's voice ping-pongs from one speaker to the next in the space of a single sentence. Voices move from shot to shot, so even if a character's standing still, you might hear fragments of the same sentence emerge from three different speakers depending on where the camera moves. The placement of dialogue may make sense spatially, but it's annoying and then some as a viewer. Otherwise, though, this is a strong soundtrack, especially for a low-budget, direct-to-video animated flick.

There aren't any dubs or downmixes this time around. Dead Space: Aftermath does feature optional subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish, though.


Extras
Nothing, really. There's a trailer for the Dead Space 2 game along with a couple plugs for other Anchor Bay releases, but that's it. I guess I could mention that Dead Space: Aftermath comes packaged with an embossed, glossy slipcover.


The Final Word
A lazy cash-in on a successful video game franchise, Dead Space: Aftermath fails spectacularly on just about every front. To really rub salt into the wound, it's obscenely overpriced, packing a $34.98 sticker price for some of the worst animation on Blu-ray and essentially no extras whatsoever. Skip It.


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