'Aftershock' is what it looks like when you light ten million dollars on fire
Director: Nicolás López
Screenplay: Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López and Eli Roth
Starring: Eli Roth, Nicolás Martínez, Andrea Osvárt, Lorenza Izzo, Natasha Yarovenko and
Rated R / 1 hour, 30 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
(out of four)
Aftershock is guilty of not only being terrible, but earth-shatteringly dull at the same time. I find
myself bored even by the prospect of writing about it. You know those low-budget
"mockbusters" you find popping up on Netflix or Redbox - the ones with deliberately similar
names and premises to actual movies? Yeah, Aftershock feels remarkably like one of those,
except in this case the makers are actually trying to make a good film. (I assume.)
It would be virtually impossible to make a mockbuster version of it (which I assume would be
called Aftereffect or Aftermath or Earthshock), simply because filmmaking quality and
production value can only go so low. IMDb lists its budget as $10 million, a number I find
confoundingly high; I would have guessed a few hundred thousand. A million, tops. It looks
cheap, it feels cheap, it's woefully miscast, and it never really gets to the point. Or a point. It
thinks it has a sense of humor about its horror elements, but - except for a couple of isolated
exceptions - any feel for comedic staging or timing is almost entirely absent.
Like star and co-writer Eli Roth's 2005 film Hostel, Aftershock begins as a carefree romp among
vacationing twentysomethings whose only ambitions are getting drunk and laid, and then
eventually morphs into a horror survival movie.
At the center of it all is a group of guys partying around Chile who Meet Cute with a group of
girls doing the same thing. They spend the next day or two wandering around town, seeing a few
sights, hitting the clubs and engaging in general touristy merriment. What's funny is how the
script tries to give everyone specific character details and backstories, for seemingly no other
reason than they need to pad the runtime. None of those details ever really means anything or
pay off - they're just banal pieces of color designed to artificially flesh out characters the film
has no interest in exploring. For the guys - or rather, bros - there's the cool, rich, hipster,
there's the guy still obsessing over his ex-girlfriend, and there's the Gringo. On the women's
side, there's the uptight one, the wild one, and the exotic one.
Now here's where the biggest miscalculation comes in, and it's a mistake most likely owed to
the fact that Eli Roth is a co-writer and producer of the film. As such, he cast himself as the de-facto lead, and the sad, simple truth is he has an almost astonishing lack of screen presence. He's
a bottomless void of charisma. And when he's ostensibly your film's emotional anchor, your
film has no emotional anchor.
Your patience with him, his bros and their exploits may be
dependent on your tolerance level for this particular kind of grown-up frat boy. In any case,
director/co-writer Nicolás López decides it's a good idea to spend nearly the whole opening hour
with these guys as they try (with varying success) to impress their new lady friends.
* We discover in an early scene that Roth's character, the Gringo, has a daughter back home. I
suppose this is meant to make him, what, more likeable? Relatable?
The thing is, a more-or-less identical formula has worked in plenty of horror flicks before. In
fact, a good recent example is Death Proof (in which, incidentally, Roth had a supporting role),
which spent a good 45 minutes learning the ins and outs of its characters and wryly setting up the
terror that was eventually to come. Aftershock has no such vision or focus. It just flounders
around for nearly an hour before abruptly, and finally, shifting gears - only the change in tone
doesn't take much advantage of anything built during the first half. It was all just wasted time.
(For the record, much of the first half of Hostel was a waste of time, too - which is unfortunate
because the second half is so good.)
The earthquake (and rumors of a pending tsunami) throws the entire city town into a panic, and
then almost immediately we're thrust into an anarchic hellscape, with our characters suddenly on
the run from a band of maniacal savages. The film goes from Entourage to Escape from New
York in about two seconds. And even that doesn't enliven things much. Ultimately it's hard to
tell where the filmmakers were going with any of this. Comedy? Disaster movie?
Postapocalyptic-style horror? All of the above? Either way, it's a failure on all levels.