Ever have one of those days? You know the kind: the ones that start out with you sleeping through your alarm, followed by running out of hot water in the middle of your shower, and then by cutting your face to ribbons while you dry shave. There’s cereal, but no milk; coffee but no filters. The day never gets any better from there, in fact, each new disaster is worse than the one before.
In a nutshell, that’s “Aftershock”.
Produced by and starring Eli Roth, directed by Nicolás López and loosely based on the 8.8 magnitude quake that hit Chile in 2010, The first half hour of the movies plays like a small brochure for how awesome Chile is as we follow Gringo (Roth), the awkward American, Ariel (Ariel Levy), the love-lorn guide and Pollo (Nicolás Martínez), the spoiled rich local boy as they party and adventure in 80’s montage style. After watching Gringo flame out with women, Ariel wallow and Pollo be kind of douchey, they finally meet their opposite numbers in Irina (Natasha Yarovenko), Monica (Andrea Osvárt) and Kylie (Lorenza Izzo). After a day of partying together, they head to a “real” Chilean nightclub. However, instead of a night full of fun and frolic, the city is slammed by a massive earthquake and the battle for survival is joined.
“Aftershock” is an assault on the senses – and not in any positive sense of the word – from it’s seizure inducing opening and accompanying dance music soundtrack to its trailer spoiled ending. López and Roth (co-writers in this little affair) give us nothing new in the way of story or storytelling. Just like any recent Hollywood horror movie, we get a world populated with cardboard cutouts – caricatures at best – wobbling from disaster to disaster. One would think that with what seemed like an extended set up, we would have better realized characters. Instead, we get the more of the same old same old. Almost needless to say, the problems were script deep.
If I had to classify this film, I’d say it was a mashup between a Univision novella and one of Roth’s “Hostel” films – sans the commercial breaks. López, the majority writer, wraps the movie’s mayhem in a curious layer of television melodrama. Compounding that, there’s seemed to be a distinct “Murphy’s Law” sensibility to the plot that feels downright sadistic. The characters get out of one bad jam and stumble into something that’s even worse. Even when you think there can’t possibly be anywhere else for it to go, they find another level lower. It’s relentless.
Performance-wise, the cast does a good job with no real standouts one way or the other. As a horror movie, it’s not particularly scary and, while there’s some blood, it’s not particularly gory. And as a disaster movie – well, it’s a disaster.
“Aftershock” is another film that falls into that“ Saturday night SyFy movie that’s masquerading as a theatrical film” category. It’s not bad; it’s not good but it’s also probably not worth your ten dollars.