Aftershock Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Released by Dimension Films
Directed by Nicolás López
Written by Nicolás López, Guillermo Amoedo and Eli Roth
2013, 90 minutes, R
Eli Roth as Gringo
Ariel Levy as Ariel
Andrea Osvárt as Monica
Nicolás Martínez as Pollo
It’s been over a year since I moved to Los Angeles, and I still have yet to feel an earthquake. Oh, we’ve had them – several rather serious ones, I’ve been told – but for whatever reason I have never actually felt one while it’s happening. Meanwhile I’ll see everyone updating Facebook and Twitter regarding how their pictures fell off the walls or their dogs went crazy during the quake, and I’m like, “Huh?”
Of course, I think I would notice an 8.8-magnitude earthquake like the one that hit Chile back in 2010. Causing several billion dollars in damage, it was one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded. Now it’s been used as the jumping off point for Aftershock, which is being billed as a horror film but is really just a standard disaster film that segues into a survival action-thriller.
The first half hour plays out like another installment of the Hostel series, with American tourist Gringo (played by Hostel director and “Bear Jew” Eli Roth) chasing some insanely hot tail in Chile with his two friends, the recently dumped Ariel (Ariel Levy), and rich slob Pollo (Nicolás Martínez, looking like Zach Galifinakis from The Hangover Part II). They hook up with a trio of young ladies – the lovely Irina (Natasha Yarovenko), and Americans Kylie (Lorena Izzo) and her overbearing sister Monica (Andrea Osvárt) – and go out for one more crazy night before the gals have to return to the States.
While they party at a deafeningly loud and overcrowded underground rave, a massive earthquake rocks the city. The group makes it out (mostly) okay, but the streets are filled with people panicking, looting, and rioting amidst burning and demolished buildings. The roads are blocked. Cell phones don’t work. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the tsunami siren goes off. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we hear that the local prison was leveled during the earthquake, releasing a gang of sadistic criminals who relentlessly pursue Gringo and company once they get a look at the girls.
Initially I thought that the basic setup was intriguing. However, the movie quickly started to remind me of the schlocky 1993 thriller Judgment Night, just set during an earthquake. In that movie, Emilio Estevez and his friends get lost in a Chicago slum and spend the whole time getting chased by Denis Leary and his criminal gang after witnessing a murder. That’s it, very simple. There were no horror elements to that movie, and there aren’t really any to this one either. I kept hoping for something more ghastly to come out of left field, especially given some early stories about catacombs where, as legend had it, the illegitimate babies of priests and nuns were left to die. But nothing comes of it. There’s also not enough gory violence to appease and hack-and-slash crowd looking for that. There are some bloody bits, but with the ground shaking and things falling and flying every which way, the filmmakers missed a lot of good opportunities for some really over the top, Final Destination kind of kills, particularly in the first club scene.
Another gripe is a mild spoiler – several people die in this movie. Now, I have no problem with that, because of course some characters have to die. However, it’s the choices that the filmmakers made about who to kill, and when, that bothered me. I understand (hypothetically) establishing a likeable character and then killing them off to shock the audience or throw them off guard. But at the same time, the characters are our lifelines to the movie. You can only care about the story if you care about the people involved in it. And here they do pretty much the opposite, killing our characters off starting with the most interesting ones first and leaving us with the ones we care less and less about. It was a gamble on the filmmakers’ part, and I think they were going for what Eli Roth did in Hostel (where Jay Hernandez’s character was kind of a douche, but we end up rooting for him in the end), but it doesn’t work.
Speaking of Roth, he’s hands down (and surprisingly) the best part of the movie. From the look of the trailer, I thought he was going to play another profane misogynist looking for a cheap buzz and quick lay. But instead his character is a recently divorced dad from San Francisco who doesn’t curse a lot, doesn’t drink a lot, and is actually endearingly awkward with women. And once the quake hits, he doesn’t step up and save the day like the Hollywood hero. He’s as helpless as everybody else, perhaps more so since he doesn’t speak Spanish, and he shows it. Faring second best is Nicolás Martínez as his loutish friend Pollo, who seems to be loved by everyone but really just likes to hand out his father’s money. The women are pretty interchangeable, with Andrea Osvárt being the most irritating (so guess who keeps on living).
I had high hopes for Aftershock to have some seriously sick horror stuff in it given Eli Roth’s involvement as co-writer and producer. This is a guy who regularly touts Cannibal Holocaust and Salo amongst his fave and most influential movies. But while it’s a competently made thriller, it’s not horror, it's certainly not anything groundbreaking (pun #1) or earth-shattering (pun #2), and, like all SoCal quakes thus far, it left me unmoved (pun #3, boom!).
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a press screening.