When Eli Roth is heavily involved in a feature film, you can count on a heavy dose of xenophobia and gore. It ran rampant through his two Hostel films, and you’d expect a little more from it when he stars as a Jewish party animal touring through Chile. Seeing how Roth only co-wrote, produced, and stars in director Nicolás López’s Aftershock could be why the gore is kept to a minimum. But it definitely would have helped ratchet up the tension in a film about a group of friends trying to survive the night after an earthquake strikes. At least the core group of friends here aren’t as intolerable as the usual smorgasbord of horror victims. Even if the film is based on the 2010 8.8 Chile earthquake, and filmed on location at the same sites of destruction, thinking about that now kind of adds an aftershock of creepy all its own.
Gringo (Roth) is living the good life on his vacation in Santiago. By night he joins his friends Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolás Martínez) essentially raving it up, while they visit wineries by day. One night the boys meet up with a pack of girls — stepsisters Kylie (Lorenza Izzo) and Monica (Andrea Osvárt) and Russian model Irina (Natasha Yarovenko). Then disaster strikes as an earthquake rocks all of Santiago. Now the six must find their way out of the club and make their way into the streets of Chile. Ariel wound up losing his hand saving a bartender in the event and needs a doctor, while the rest of them begin their own fight for their lives as tsunami sirens blare and police inform everyone that a curfew is in place because the prison has collapsed and inmates are roaming the street.
Aftershock wears its budget on its sleeve in some scenes, but López keeps the action moving along from one sequence to the next. The film’s biggest asset may be that it feels like a mixture of Roth’s Hostels, the Final Destination franchise, and The Impossible. Anything and everything begins to get used to pick off the cast one by one, and you’ll be surprised to see who makes it and how far. The world’s worst funicular gets to play a game of suspense twice and, while you may be able to guess how everything is going to end, at least López, Roth, and co-writer Guillermo Amoedo had the balls to do it. Some of the people involved with Aftershock are also associated with Roth’s next project — the cannibals in the Amazon The Green Inferno. And with Roth behind the camera, I can only imagine how much more he’ll be able to pull off. As it stands, Aftershock is still a fun ride, even if it may not be gory enough for horror fans or cataclysmic enough for disaster fans.
Photo courtesy The Weinstein Company