Aftershock marks a full ten years since Eli Roth came to prominence with the wonderfully weird Cabin Fever, followed by the genre-defining Hostel. But apart from a producing a few films and acting in a couple of roles, the most notable being Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, he hasn’t really done much of note since then. The low-key, low-budget Aftershock doesn’t change that. Again taking up acting duties on top of being a producer, it does, however, achieve a first: a disaster-horror.
It starts off with six international friends touring Santiago, Chile. Four are tourists – Americans Gringo (Roth) and Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), Russian Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) and Hungarian Monica (Andrea Osvárt) – with two being locals: rich kid Pollo (Nicolas Martinez – a Zach Galifianakis beardy lookalike) and his best mate Ariel (Ariel Levy). When an earthquake suddenly hits while they are partying in an underground nightclub, surviving the initial impact is only the beginning of their nightmare.
Anyone who has seen Hostel can see very similar ground being trod here; the opening act begins much like a Lonely Planet documentary, with the amateurish direction showing Santiago in an idyllic light. But after the earthquake it becomes evident this style wasn’t intentional – when Mother Nature brutally squishes people to a gory pulp the production scale is revealed in all its sub-par glory.
Although it’s hard to comprehend, this is actually based on a true story. With that in mind, you can easily envisage this as a serious emotional drama a la The Impossible. However, the cheap shocks and a distasteful rape scene file this as a video nasty. And it’s not just the gore which is unpleasant – having a rotten script containing bad acting (all the women), despicable characters (all the men) and irritating dialogue (both the men and women) doesn’t exactly endear you to a film centred on survival either. There is some attempt to have sympathy for them – Gringo’s references to a daughter, the friendship between Pollo and Ariel – but really it’s just all filler for the likes of a car smashing into someone’s head.
When the most memorable parts are a brilliant cameo from Selena Gomez and the not-so-surprising comically-bleak ending, Aftershock really doesn’t have much going for it. A natural disaster produces an unexpected storyline, but it is results in an expected outcome with Roth involved – a scare-free, predictable excuse for gore.