Movie Review: 'Aftershock' -- 2 stars
Directed by Nicolás López
Starring Eli Roth, Nicolás Martínez, Andrea Osvárt
Playing at the Village East, Cinemart and elsewhere
"Aftershock" is a horror movie set during the 2010 Chilean earthquake, and you wish director Nicolás López hadn't bothered cross-pollinating genres. This is a disaster flick masquerading as a sadistic scare movie, a film crying out for a realistic portrait of a devastating event that is instead weighed down by superficial human-spawned terrors.
It starts intriguingly enough, following star and co-screenwriter Eli Roth and an assortment of friends on a hedonistic ride through Chile. Electropop fills the soundtrack, and the loudest neon yellows and aqua blues this side of "Spring Breakers" are omnipresent inside the setting's flashy underground clubs and across the striking coastal exteriors.
Roth and company dream of sex, drugs and partying amongst cretins. And you know how things go for the sex-obsessed in horror movies: not too well. Soon enough, the 8.8-magnitude earthquake hits and our motley crew must navigate the physical dangers in the ruined coastal city of Valparaíso, most notably the escaped prisoners stampeding across its streets.
In a sort of brainless sense, this is a passable movie. The practical special effects give it the feel of an old-fashioned studio backlot effort, with buildings and streets shifting, cracking and crumbling. The sense of place is strong; before the quake hits, there's a real temptation to tune out the narrative and take in the scenery. Lopez moves the action at a brisk, engaging pace.
But "Aftershock" doesn't earn its horror stripes. The wanton brutality on display feels manipulative rather than genuine, as if the filmmaker took a cue from Roth's "Hostel" and purposefully upped the quotient. If you're in the midst of such a massive quake, with destruction everywhere and the threat of a deadly tsunami looming, the last thing you should be doing is worrying about murderer-rapist prisoners.
The movie ought to have zeroed in on the survival efforts, a la last year's "The Impossible," and forgotten about the human baddies. How do you survive in a foreign country, where you don't speak the language, during a natural disaster of epic proportions? "Aftershock" doesn't bother pursuing the question.