Directed by Nicolas Lopez
Produced by horror’s current brand king, Eli Roth, Aftershock may sell more tickets based solely on name recognition, but the real purpose is to highlight Chilean director Nicolas Lopez and introduce his brand of filmmaking to American audiences. That’s all fine, and I sincerely hope that the international exposure of this movie will help bring more interesting projects to Chile. However, if you take a look around, we already have plenty of filmmakers here in America who are making mediocre horror movies so what sets Aftershock apart, if anything?
It’s not the story; that’s pretty basic. The plot centers around the aptly named Gringo (Eli Roth) as he parties his way through Santiago until a massive earthquake sends him and his buddies into a mad dash to survive the elements, riotous gangs, and prisoners that are beginning to run rampant throughout the city. Got it? Super.
Maybe the other characters will help flesh things out a bit? Ehh... not really. After starring together in Lopez’s brash family comedy Fuck My Life and its sequel, Fuck My Wedding, actors Ariel Levy and Nicolas Martinez should already have a great rapport with each other and an onscreen chemistry that should be clearly visible. It is to a certain extent in the first hour of Aftershock, but is it more entertaining or meaningful than any other account of best friends on holiday? Nope. The first hour of Aftershock could have just as easily been the subtitled version of the setup in Hostel, there for the sake of running time instead of being able to effectively establish strong relationships. Martinez, as the Galifianakis-esque rich kid Pollo, does provide some comic relief while still personifying a kind of seedy debauchery, but it’s not enough to sustain any real character building. In the form of two infighting half-sisters, one sensible (Andrea Osvart) and one pre-Lindsay Lohan (Lorena Izzo), the writers do make an attempt at providing some tremors of emotion before the earthquake hits, but it just comes off as whiny and never pays off once the scary part of the scary movie actually begins.
And if you’re going for Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place, Spring Breakers), you might as well be watching Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare because of Johnny Depp. She disses Roth in one scene at the bar, then disappears. Gomez doesn’t even fall victim to a sanguinary death scene, which would have been uninspired, but it could have been cool, right? It would have at least justified her cameo, allowing horror fans to relish in the spectacular death of a flash-in-the-pan pop icon. Instead, it’s a marketing ploy.
The best sequence is, unsurprisingly, the dance club butchery when high-heeled bowheads are crushed as their dates run in terror. It’s bloody, funny, and exciting. Afterwards, there is also an intense scene involving an old cable car as the group desperately tries to get to the town’s only hospital, a building that is only accessible via a centuries-old pulley system for some reason. It all ends horribly... too horribly, in fact. It’s difficult to laugh it up with these characters and then be expected to care about them suddenly when tragic scenes occur, moments that are completely opposite in tone with the rest of the film up to that point.
There are flashes of Lopez’s sick sense of humor at the end of the film and during the aforementioned club scene after an act of kindness ends in a gory maiming of one of our leads. If that kind of sick and twisted playfulness and willingness to shirk the usual tropes was present in more of the movie (instead of a twenty-minute rape scene that ends with a girl being shot in the back as she escapes, for example), this would be a movie worth recommending and a film that truly did show the potential of Chilean film on the international film scene. Aftershock will hopefully lead to better projects and more opportunity for Lopez, but is it really a movie that highlights his talents? Is it a movie that gets you excited to see other horror exports from Chile? With small, gritty films like Patricio Valladares’ Hidden in the Woods (already due for a U.S. remake starring Michael Biehn), Chile could very well be a part of the blossoming genre market in South America if Lopez and others keep making personal films. If they don’t, what’s the aftershock of that?
1 1/2 out of 5