Animating Halloween: Dead Space – Aftermath Review

Rating: 5.5/10

Plot: Three years before the events of Dead Space 2, the USG O’Bannon went to Aegis VII to collect shards of the marker that Isaac Clarke crashed into the surface. However, shortly after they were dispatched, the CEC also loses contact with the O’Bannon. When the Marines go to investigate, they find that, out of the 137 crew members of the O’Bannon, there are only four signs of life detected. Everyone else was slaughtered.

Aftermath chronicles the stories of each of the four remaining crew members – Isabel Cho, Nickolas Kuttner, Alejandro Borges and Nolan Stross – as they piece together what happened on the O’Bannon.

Breakdown: I’m going to bite my tongue for something I’ll definitely be addressing later, but let me just say this movie had me internally screaming (in a bad way) within the first three minutes and consistently remains a prevalent problem throughout the bookends.

Dead Space: Aftermath was meant to serve as a bridge between the video games Dead Space and Dead Space 2, and….it’s kinda that a little I guess. But since homework is poo, as I mentioned in the last Dead Space movie, Downfall, we’re going to be trying to take this at face value without concerning ourselves too much with continuity issues between the games.

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The USG O’Bannon has suddenly ceased communication with the CEC, so they send out a ‘rescue’ team of marines to see what happened. When they arrive, they see that the ship is littered with torn apart bodies. Only four life signs are detected on board out of the 137 listed crew. When they find them, one of them, Kuttner, goes berserk and kills one of the soldiers, so they’re stunned with high powered tasers and detained.

They start interrogating all of them individually to get their stories on what happened when they were deployed to Aegis VII.

The movie is separated into four flashbacks that are bookended by the continuing plot going on in the rescue ship, the USM Abraxis. Each flashback is drawn and animated in a different fashion. This is a creative and interesting way to both convey the story of what happened on the O’Bannon while also getting specific perspectives of the information through the eyes of each of our main characters. However, I do also have to ding it because it ultimately serves no point.

People were noting some changes in certain details that show differences in perspective, like Cho seemingly being made sluttier in Stross’ flashback while she’s very tall and well-built but also mature and responsible, barring the affair she was having with Stross, in her own flashback. In Kuttner’s flashback, he easily overpowered Noah and Alejandro, but in Alejandro’s flashback he gives a much better fight, even hurling him about 300 feet as he took a swipe at him near the end.

In any other story, these might be amusing changes, but in this circumstance, who cares about such petty discrepancies in perspective when over 100 people were brutally murdered? It’s no time for dick measuring contests and slut shaming.

The first one to be interrogated is Kuttner, who was the first one to have exposure to a fragment of the marker on Aegis VII. He went insane almost immediately after that, having constant hallucinations of his recently deceased young daughter, Vivian, leading him to have violent outbursts that set most of the events of the downfall of the O’Bannon into motion and created a slue of problems on the Abraxis.

The art style used for his segment is pretty good. It’s a sort of melding of Western and anime-styled art that is craggy but overall good. I did have a good laugh at Vivian’s face in one shot only because they made her eyes into sharp diamond shapes for no reason when they never look that way again after that.

Next up is Borges’ flashback, and uh…the art, but moreso the animation, for his segment is uh….stiff. Like, for several instances at the beginning, it seems like people are pivoting and turning like actual robots stiff. Outside of that, the art is much more in the realm of anime and is overall more detailed than Kuttner’s, but everyone keeps their suits on so it’s hard to tell for most of it.

Also, in case you somehow manage to forget because god knows they remind us enough times, Noah, who is part of Borges’ engineer crew, is his cousin. And as if we couldn’t already figure it out by the fact that he’s not a fellow survivor, Noah dies. Also, in case you somehow forget because, again, god knows they remind us enough times, Alejandro has a robot arm. He got it from trying to save his crew in a mining accident.

The robot arm is pretty cool, admittedly. Especially with the art in this segment.

Borges’ flashback continues further than Kuttner’s as it includes Noah’s death, their escape off of the exploding rig and the gratuitous death of several characters. Dead Space is no stranger to gruesome deaths, but yeesh.

Soooo….Halfway through the flashback, the only real views of actual faces have been either behind helmets that block nearly everything or Noah’s smashed up face. Once we get back to the main ship, we see the facial art and it’s not nearly as good as Kuttner’s flashback to say the least. The mouths are particularly ugly, being overly large (most notably on Borges) with nearly always-showing teeth, the oddly proportioned eyes, the heads are thin, and the stiff animation continues to bleed into it, particularly in the area of the horrible lip syncing.

They manage to return to the ship, and seem to be one of the only ships that made it back since the rest got destroyed in the debris of the planet as it was exploding. But the deaths aren’t over. The O’Bannon gets heavily damaged while trying to escape, and apparently they put TNT in the control panels because several of them blow up and kill crew members as they take damage.

Once the marker fragment has been given to the Captain, Borges demands to know why a rock was worth his cousin’s life, but gets little answer besides that it’s worth a lot of money.

Next up is, surprisingly, Nolan Stross. I say ‘surprisingly’ because Stross is the only character from Dead Space 2 who appears in this movie. I thought for sure they’d save his segment for last, but whatever.

By the way, they get all of the survivors to talk by tormenting them with hallucinations of their worst fears…….but 1) I don’t understand how they’re even doing that and 2) there’s no indication they wouldn’t have talked beforehand. It’s literally that they put them in the chair and then torture them without asking any questions.

Stross’ flashback is definitely the most anime-ish one so far. Outside of some eye designs that remind me of Reign: The Conquerer, it’s pretty darn good. I don’t exactly know why the Captain now has a collar so popped it’s covering his ears, though. Apparently, the marker fragment is making him think he’s in the 1980s.

Stross, being the head scientist on board the O’Bannon, is tasked with studying the fragment. He’s having marital problems as he struggles to maintain both his job and his family, including his precious infant son. Doesn’t help that his wife thinks he’s cheating on her with with Cho.

As Stross studies the fragment, he finds that it’s a blueprint for DNA and could completely revolutionize life as we know it…..But enough of that, time to prove his wife right by boinking Cho right in the research lab.

Later, Stross explains that the marker fragment has an odd effect on dead tissue. On contact, it reanimates it. When living beings touch or are around the marker for long periods of time, they have visions and nightmares at the start and eventually psychotic breaks – some being more susceptible to this effect than others. Kuttner was the one to break because he both touched the fragment (though, he was wearing gloves…) and was already on edge because it had only been weeks after losing his daughter.

Showcasing some pretty cool effects, we see that Stross is also slowly losing his sanity due to his exposure to the marker piece (And considering how he is in DS2, that’s no surprise.)

Well, it’s 45 minutes into this 80 minute long movie, so it has to be time for necromorphs to finally emerge, right? Right! And Stross actually manages to MAKE one.

He’s so interested in the powers of the marker, that he decides to grab a cadaver and test out its power of reanimation on it. Surprise, surprise, it turns into a necromorph and kills his colleague before going on a murder spree. It’s not long before the, this is probably the wrong term but let’s call it, infection starts spreading like wildfire and the entire ship is thrown into chaos.

Stross runs to save his family, only to be shocked to find that there are two creatures in the room that he swiftly kills. It doesn’t take much for the viewer to realize that the creatures he killed were actually his baby and wife, and that they most likely weren’t killed and reanimated as necromorphs – he just killed them in a psychotic fit, believing they were posing a threat to his family.

Our final flashback is Cho’s and….wow. Her segment has some crazy craggy art. It’s jagged af faces on top of weirdly proportioned bodies. It’s so weird. It’s like someone took the art from Akagi and made everyone super buff. Even Stross is completely cut, but he also a beak nose, so I’m really conflicted.

I’m also endlessly baffled at the fact that they will show some of the most graphic deaths they can but actually show a full-out sex scene? Oh dear god no! Children might see this! Now go twist another young girl’s neck ten times over until her head pops off. (See: Vivian)

Most of her flashback is stuff you can surmise from the others. She meets up with the other survivors as well as the Captain and some stragglers, all of which will obviously die because, again, this movie kinda has too much balls to believe it has the story strength to be able to work with showing us the only survivors at the BEGINNING of a horror movie. (And, dammit, that’s the same problem Downfall had!)

Some confusing deaths happen. One of the stragglers gets all of her head meat melted off by a necromorph throwing up in her face. I’m pretty sure that would be an insta-death, but they not only show her still standing several moments after her head has literally be reduced to a clean skull, but she can also hold her hands up to her head like she’s in pain. Can a doctor please tell me if any of that is plausible?

Other straggler dude dies because of a boring death, but then the Captain dies. There’s a hull breach and they try to shut the airlock doors, but the power is out so the captain sacrifices himself to shut them….since the manual lock…is outside of the door…..What purpose does it serve to have the only manual airlock mechanism…be outside of the airlock doors?

His death is actually pretty cool, though, because, realizing he won’t make it out, he grabs a grenade and launches himself into the group of necromorphs to take as many of them down as he can with him.

Now tasked with throwing the shard of the marker into the reactor core of the engine to stop the necromorphs, the survivors go and….well, do that.

Borges: “I am so fucking sick of these fucking things.” Did you try in terrible, terrible vain to make a Snakes on a Plane reference? Did copyright fright just completely wash the line of any actual reference?

Cho throws the shard into the reactor, the necromorphs all stop moving and we’re looped right back around to the start of the movie.

Catching up on what happened in the bookends, Kuttner accidentally gets himself killed by opening an airlock in an attempt to chase the hallucination of his daughter, Borges gets executed after they find out he didn’t touch the marker piece, thus he’s more of a liability than an asset now, Stross is put into a pod and kept in storage for experimentation on the effects of the marker, and Cho is lobotomized by the overseer after she refuses to help him create a coverup so they can blame her for the ‘terrorist’ attacks on the O’Bannon, the Ishimura and Aegis VII.

…..Which is…some sort of coverup story indeed. Who in their right mind would believe this spindly little doctor was the mastermind behind three of the worst ‘terrorist’ attacks in human history? By herself? She slaughtered everyone on the Ishimura and trashed the ship. She slaughtered everyone on the O’Bannon and destroyed the ship. She BLEW UP AEGIS VII. It’s ridiculous to think anyone’s accepting that.

The people who were interrogating the survivors are killed because I dunno. As we see Isaac’s pod right next to Stross’, our movie ends.

So, yeah, the events of this movie are largely inconsequential to the plots of either Dead Space 1 or 2. It mostly just explains how Stross came into contact with the marker and gives him a little more backstory.

The overall plot is at least a little more interesting than Downfall, even if they did go over the same information a couple times over. I like that they explored the concept of the much larger conspiracy regarding the unitologists here than they did with the few yahoos they had on Downfall. The characters were definitely given more exploration and personality than those in Downfall too. (Please note, however, that this is not a direct sequel to Downfall, as several reviewers were noting.)

The structure is interesting, and even though it doesn’t really serve much of a purpose here, I thought it was fun that they had different art and animation styles for each flashback, even if the art and animation quality of each varied a lot as well.

I also kinda liked the buildup to the necromorphs. Even though we waited quite a while for them to finally appear, there wasn’t a shortage of action in the meantime, and there was certainly a sense of foreboding as I realized Stross would try to use the marker piece on a dead body.

While the voices weren’t the best, I think most of the cast did a pretty good job, particularly Curt Cornelius as Stross (though, that might be cheating because that’s his game voice actor) and Graham McTavish as Captain Campbell.

Well, now. That sure is a lot of positive things I’m saying.

Allow me to ruin it all as I break out into raucous laughter in response to the art and animation of the bookends.

I have been holding that in for over an hour.

I wish I had taped myself reacting to the first few non-credit shots of this movie. I was in awe at the horrible. First, we see entrails flying by that look like the cheapest of cheap plastic toys.

This was when I started muttering “Oh! Oh…god, that’s…that’s not good.”

And then this motherfucker popped up on screen.

I had to pause the video just to process how terrible this looked. I was astounded. But then I took a step back and remembered that this is outside of the ship, so maybe the main scenes will look better.

Uhm.

Yeah.

I’m uhh…

I’m gonna go with a hard ‘no’ there.

How did they manage to make CGI that looks exponentially worse than the video games from which they were based? Isn’t that the bare minimum we’re meant to expect from modern day animated video game movies? This is from 2011!

This….is almost Food Fight levels of bad CGI and animation. Barring the lack of animation errors, it’s basically the same level. Complete lack of detailing, non-moving hair that looks like it was rendered on a Speak and Spell, really odd design choices, and everything simply looking like it wasn’t completed on time so they just said ‘fuck it’ and sent it out. I continued to be increasingly blown away by the lack of quality in the CGI spots. It was impressive it was so bad.

Some of my personal favorites were the doll-like representation of Kuttner’s bloodied daughter.

Looks more like raspberry jam.

Whatever default pose they left Kuttner’s character model in after his death.

These bowling ball spiders.

And even though I would never be able to get a good quality gif of it, the little animation of Cho they made to show her psychotically shooting up someplace that is literally her with her mouth agape and turning as if she were on a mechanical pivot joint swaying back and forth while laughing maniacally. That was the pinnacle of robot animation right there. I laughed out loud for a good minute. No regrets.

Something I should mention is that it wasn’t just different art styles being applied to these separate sections – it was also a slue of animation studios. The animation for the bookends was given to Digiart Productions. You may know them from such masterpieces as Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief, Garfield Gets Real, Bling and the Shark Tale ripoff, Shark Bait/The Reef.

Contrast that with Kuttner and Stross’ flashbacks who had a bit more quality and competence with DongWoo Animation, who produced Magi-Nation and did animation work on shows like Avengers Assemble, Justice League, Kodocha, Rurouni Kenshin and Steamboy.

Then we have Borges’ flashback, which was done by JM Animation. They did animation work on 32 episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic, and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.

Finally, Cho’s flashback was done with JM Animation, but specifically Team Seed, whoever they are because I cannot find a single drop of information on them.

Either way, any of these studios and teams could’ve done a much MUCH better job on the bookended segments than Digiart, but nope. Technically the main part of our movie is the part they gave the people behind Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (Lucky Goes to Hollywood!)

And just to give everyone fair shame, I’ll also list the main production studios who more prominently put their names on this – Starz Media, Pumpkin Studios, Film Roman and the bastards themselves – EA.

Bottomline: The differing art styles will either leave you impressed and refreshed with the variety or will leave you confused and put off because most of the segments look passable at best. Some people were saying Cho’s part was the best animated, but I’d have to disagree as I found Stross’ flashback to be quite a bit better.

The CGI bookend segments are, by far, the worst offenders. Put the flashbacks side and side and the transitions aren’t too jarring, but throw in the CGI bits and it’s like falling off a cliff at the beginning and end of each flashback.

At the very least, the CGI is so bad I got a good laugh out of it. Being fair, too, the shots of the ship in most of the versions look pretty okay, outside of Cho’s flashback where it looked a bit too fake and like it was moving out of sync with what was hitting it.

The voice work is pretty good, the music has quite a bit of tension to it and most of the time the direction and cinematography are nice enough.

This is largely a pointless movie, though, that hardly acts as the bridge between Dead Space 1 and 2 that it seemingly wants to be. While I do believe the story is a bit better than Downfall, the structure will definitely put some people off. There’s also no getting around the fact that all of the tension gets drained out of a horror movie when you show the only survivors at the start and tell the story through their eyes. The only tension left is who will be left alive in the bookend segments, and considering Stross is the only person we see or hear about from this story in Dead Space 2, most people can instantly infer that most will either die or otherwise be silenced.

It’s a perfectly fine movie. It’s fine. It’s very okay.

If you can survive a few vicious assaults on your eyeballs, it’s perfectly watchable for both Dead Space fans and people who just want an animated horror movie.

As you can tell by the rating, it’s, sadly, not as good as Downfall, despite some of my earlier notes. I was definitely more immersed in a horror environment with Downfall. The art, while not being fantastic, was far more consistent. And the pacing was much better because we didn’t have to go over some spots twice or more and we didn’t have to come to a near halt four times due to transitions between storytellers.

In the end, I feel like Aftermath is a movie they both put more work into but also cared significantly less, if that makes any sense.

Recommended Audience: It’s Dead Space, so….duh. If you don’t know Dead Space level gore, it’s really, really high. People get brutally crushed, their heads smashed in, head meat melting off, heads sliced in half, burned to death in lava, and even though it was masked as a necromorph at the time, there’s also a very brutal baby murder. Etc.

There’s also a few brief spots of nudity, all of which is contained to Cho’s segment. It’s also the only segment that includes sexual content, but it’s nothing porny. It’s mostly just a brief shot of movement, her sitting on him naked and then a couple suggestive shots.

We also have a bunch of swearing, if that bothers you in comparison to everything else. 17+


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