Wednesday, October 23, 2013
After a small, mountainside town in Chile is hit by a devastating earthquake (soon to be followed by a tsunami), a group of survivors (including several American and European tourists who don't speak the language) band together to try to get out of town alive. Unfortunately, they have more than just nature to contend with, as the streets have become flooded with looters, rioters and gang members in the wake of the disaster.
After a too-long setup of our various protagonists partying around Chile (luckily they are less douchey and obnoxious than characters in these kinds of movies usually are; the film even plays like an acceptable low-key comedy for a while), Aftershock kicks into high gear once the earthquake hits and becomes one of the more crazy and effective thrillers of recent years. Eli Roth (cast here as a more likable version of his usual "bro" persona) is credited as a co-writer and producer on the project (it was directed by Nicolas Lopez, a Chilean filmmaker I am not familiar with) and his sensibility is apparent here. Aftershock shares some DNA with Cabin Fever and the Hostel films, with its over-the-top dark humor, its mix of good fun with disturbing violence, its desire to undercut certain cliches of the genre, and its complete lack of pity for its ill-fated characters.
The biggest problem with Aftershock is a slight misjudgement of tone. The film overall, even when it tries to play the disaster aftermath as realistic and disturbing, is good, high energy fun. Shit hits the fan, the characters have to scramble to stay alive, and after that it is basically nonstop action. The problem is occasionally the film becomes a shade too dark and sabotages the fun, especially when it introduces (SPOILER) some gratuitous rape. Aftershock just isn't a serious enough film to subject a character to a fate that rough and deal with it properly. It's a few moments like that where the film slides from grisly but entertaining thrills to a grim nihilism it doesn't really earn.
Still, it's well-made, well-acted, easy on the eyes, has some real laughs and thrills, contains some very effective set pieces and ends on exactly the right note. Those looking for a slightly subversive disaster/thriller would do well with Aftershock.