[BD Review] ‘Aftershock’ Is Fun… Until It Isn’t

Aftershock is a weird movie in the sense that I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. There’s a lot to like in the film, but I can’t recommend it as a complete work. It has a lot of great components, but it seems oddly intent on sabotaging itself with elements that just don’t belong within its tonal landscape (though I may be taking a bit of a leap by stating that I even know what the intended tone is).

The film, directed by Nicolas Lopez from a script he wrote with Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo, begins firmly in Hostel territory, introducing us to the main characters in an extended first act. I can sort of see what they’re going for in these first 40 or so minutes – they obviously want us to invest in these guys. Gringo (Roth) is reeling from a divorce and misses his daughter, rich horndog (Pollo) is out to get laid, and ineffectual Ariel (Ariel Levy) is always on the verge of texting a recent ex who is no good for him.

While the film certainly does a thorough job establishing these characters and the conflicts/dynamics that fuel their relationship, it’s to the detriment of the overall experience. We’re given reasons to root for their survival that should work on paper, but spending so much time with them almost negates it. I’m not sure if the decision was to take a This Is 40 approach to the Hostel formula, but this section of the film plays more like Sideways sans actual human insight. By the time they meet up with their female counterparts Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) and Monica (Andrea Osvárt) we’re ready for some sh*t to start shaking.

And so it does. A massive earthquake strikes Chile and the underground nightclub in which they’e partying is decimated. Soon enough, the gang (more or less) is out on the streets where it becomes evident that humanity itself is the real threat. It’s here that Aftershock really takes off, and boy does it swing for the fences. Lots of blood, lots of tension, lots of batsh*t decisions that pay off admirably, a cable car sequence that had me on the edge of my seat… it’s all good deal of fun. Until it isn’t.

Even during the roller-coaster ride that is the film’s second half, there are some insurmountable tonal miscalculations. The most severe of these is the repeated rape of a young mother at the hands of a local gang. The first time she’s raped goes by fairly quickly; it’s upsetting and unwelcome but you can almost block it out. Then comes the second rape – which is fairly protracted. In fact, the camera lingers on this event for so long I’m not sure what the aim is. Is it suspense? Maybe? One of our heroes is stalking up on the offender after all, and we’re hoping he’ll put an end to it. But, then again, he stalks up so slowly you begin to suspect that the film is actually disregarding his character’s natural motivations in order to showcase the assault at hand.

It comes down to one thing – this moment (along with several others) just isn’t fun. I’m not making any moral judgements on it. I don’t feel any differently about the filmmakers as people. I just don’t want to watch this scene – not in this movie. You can have your gory/fun Irwin Allen inspired romp. You can have a movie that addresses the horrors of sexual assault. I’m just not sure that they can be the same movie. And it’s not just this scene, there are other moments peppered throughout the film that attach themselves like parasites and leech a good deal of the joy out of it.

That’s not to say that there still aren’t things to enjoy in Aftershock, there are. The last shot in particular made me so giddy I almost forgot why I wanted to stop watching the movie entirely just 20 minutes earlier. Aftershock really is that uneven. If they could bottle the feeling I got from the last 30 seconds of this movie I’d be shouting about it from the rooftops. But they didn’t, and something I wanted to love became something I found myself trying to like.

 

Official Score

  • truchainsaw28

    Set in Chile after a nightmarish earthquake. A group of terrorists find themselves in a dire situation when the prisoners break out of jail and begin to take advantage of the situation. Most films set around disasters tend to focus on the positive outcomes of humanity. The way we come together even though strangers and assist each other in our greatest time of need. But after hearing the news reports of what happened in New Orleans after Katrina it makes a compelling case for a film maker to explore the darkest side of humanity. And as an exploration of that theme Aftershock mildly works moving from one situation to the next. Exploring the negative ways individuals could react. The theme is intriguing and thought provoking from a single mother defending her two children, to a rich man’s empathy for his friend and the various ways people actually crack under pressure in the most despicable ways. I only wish the film makers just focused on those things, had a higher budget and delivered a more polished product. But what we have here is mostly a missed opportunity. Despite some decent character development and some nice moments dramatically the film is filled with unintentionally funny performances, seems to have been cut together with the subtly of a chainsaw and is very sloppily made due in some part to the high concept dumbed down by the obvious budgetary constraints. There is also a sub plot involving orphans that leads to an unexpectedly silly and offensive climax. Theres a lot of negatives here but I can’t say that I hated the movie at all. It’s certainly an original film and makes some intriguing points sadly it’s bogged down by the amateurness of the production overall and a controlling need to try and make the proceedings entertaining which they never are.So if you’ve seen taht nifty red band trailer that looks utterly ridiculous and like a lot of fun you’re in for a much different experience indeed for better and worse. 3/5

  • John Marrone

    This film was atrocious. I have no clue what you saw valuable about this. From the cheap home-vid looking cinematography to the bad makeup to the horrible script and premise… The earthquake action was pitiful. Very few films annoy me as much as this did, especially coming from a “name” like Eli Roth. Hope Green inferno redeems him from this. Otherwise I’m calling: “overrated director”. HORRID. 0/10

  • Nick Mroz

    So I’m late to the game on this one and I thought all the tweets I saw going to Eli Roth about Aftershock was reliable enough to rent this movie. I can say without a doubt, that the writing is just… terribad. It’s as if an earthquake occured halfway through the script swallowing any semblance of logic. Oh well.

  • Mr James

    Without doubt the worst film I have had the misfortune to see in a long time. About as enjoyable as an acid bath.