Aftershock (2012)

Eli Roth divides fans. Some people laud him as a horror icon whose work has made waves through the genre, whilst some view him as an upstart punk who’s dragged horror back to the 80’s. Whatever the case, he isn’t going away, having befriended Tarantino and become a self-styled writer, director, producer and actor with films such as Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Last Exorcism, The Man With the Iron Fists and Inglourious Basterds under his belt, alongside Netflix original series Hemlock Grove.

Aftershock represents another foray into Horror for Roth, this time seeing the multi-talented filmmaker on producing and acting duties. He also co-writes with Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolás López, who directs. The result has a very distinctive flavour of Hostel about it, which could be a good or terrible thing depending on your proclivities towards ‘torture porn’ movies.

So what’s it about? The story is relatively simple; three friends (one American and two Chileans) are partying hard in Chile and meet up with three ladies in a club. Unfortunately their fun is cut short when a random – and massive – earthquake sends Chile into absolute chaos, collapsing buildings and society in one foul swoop.

When the group learn a tsunami might be heading their way, the six-some desperately try to reach higher ground… but escaping the earthquake’s after-effects are the least of their troubles as law and order immediately breaks down and the streets become an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Much like Roth’s 2005 film Hostel, Aftershock begins with an elongated, patience-stretching sequence of scenes showing us the three friends (Eli Roth, Ariel Levy and Nicolás Martínez) clubbing hard, having a tour of a vineyard / winery and clubbing some more. It stretches this opening to over 30 minutes, by which point you’re praying for a natural disaster to shake things up… if you excuse the pun.

Whether true or not, Aftershock paints Chile as a lawless, anarchic place filled with angry people and lots of guns. It’s a dark, brutal and horribly disturbing place, where tattoos are really really bad.

Unfortunately I didn’t like Hostel. Personally I found it a little childish and playfully narcissistic, which was just a bit weird. Aftershock feels very similar tonally – although much less violent – and has a strange obsession with punishing / wounding characters then – once they’ve escaped their predicament – killing them almost immediately. The edict “no good deed goes unpunished” seems to be prevalent here too, where good, helpful characters are offed horribly whilst psychopathic rapists get to live. Bizarre, narcissistic and just a little bit grotesque.

Aftershock also fools us with its protagonists, moving from the three men (who we spent over 30 minutes with at the start) and onto a random trio of women, who suddenly become our heroes. Eli Roth’s character – given a lot of screen time – suddenly doesn’t matter anymore. Why? I don’t know. Whilst some people will proclaim this as bold and unique, I found it to be a jarring and peculiar decision, especially considering our remaining protags are wafer-thin and unlikeable idiots.

So how is Eli Roth? Well Roth plays the lovingly-named ‘Gringo’ (yes, that’s literally what his character is credited as) with as much charm as he can muster, sending himself up as an awkward, bad-with-women bachelor who – randomly – has a child he’s left somewhere while he parties with his mates.

Unfortunately Eli Roth is not a good actor. At all. He should stick to… erm… not acting? Ariel Levy and Nicolás Martínez out-act him in every scene, and even Selena Gomez – in her latest pointless cameo – manages to feel more believable than Roth.

Luckily the other characters offer more sympathetic protagonists to root for, especially Nicolás Martínez. Despite looking like a cut-price Zach Galifianakis, Martínez is excellent as Pollo, a super-influential Chilean with a rich father and lots of friends. Fantastically likeable, he ensures the film isn’t entirely devoid of charm.

The main gripe I have with Aftershock is how surprisingly dull it is. The overlong beginning will leave you cold and / or bored, meaning you head into the remainder of the movie with a niggling feeling you’re wasting your time. Coupled with the lacklustre plotting and casual nature in which main characters are dispatched, Aftershock is tragically very forgettable.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “Aftershock”

  1. Pat Redux says:

    I saw this at the Fantasy Film Festival in Germany this summer and was very disappointed – too slow to get going, too silly to be horror, and then just a rush of stuff and what’s that, a tsunami? If it hadn’t been so irritating I would agree: forgettable.

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