Aftershock is a disaster/horror film fixated on the savage “every group for themselves” survival mentality as violent tremors threaten everybody’s lives. Well in theory, anyway. In execution it is a fumbled and misguided mess that not even the infamous Harvey Weinstein could snake-oil pitch.
The film follows Gringo (Writer-producer-actor Eli Roth) and his vacationing visit to Chile to meet up with some buddies. We get an obnoxiously unnecessary long look into their lives as they attempt to pick up chicks and check out the nightclub scene, one of which is accessed via gondola to an underground area. During some extrinsic dialogue, some friends fight, Zach Galifianakis’ twin texts a picture of his junk, two of the women argue about abortion, and immediately afterwards some vicious tremors hit.
Aftershock succeeds in depicting carnage whether you’re shamelessly laughing at the extras getting killed (the overly large sound system comes crumbling down squishing people like ants) in the background or taken aback at more traumatizing subtle shots like a dead baby in the backseat of a crashed vehicle. The carnage is often tonally inconsistent going from one of the most hilarious death scenes in recent memory (a maid is climbing a ladder underground that leads to street level, sticks her head out, and makes a priceless wide circular confused facial expression as a semi-truck traveling at high velocity lops her head off) to jarring and exploitative uncomfortable rape scenes that really don’t belong since the narrative fails as presenting whatever message it is presenting.
The sheer frantic mayhem however is the only saving grace. For 30 minutes prior to the aftershock the film halfheartedly attempts giving its characters a range of complexity. Eli Roth is divorced with a daughter, his friend Pollo is a smug rich jerk, the female sisters are often quarreling about lifestyles, and more. I know why it is there but sorry Eli Roth, placing your horrifically acted characters in Trollface apparel is not going to win people over. Nobody will care about these characters even during exploitative rape scenes.
The acting is exceptionally poor all around causing all the shrieking and crying to inevitably grate your ears transcending into a cacophony of loud noises that accompany the destruction. The characters are rote and stupid but what’s really surprising is how the tremors are seemingly strung along on a marionette to harm major characters whenever the plot needs progression. In other words these characters are doomed from the start by one huge plot vessel. Why not have the tremors attack the gangsters and other rioters? A far more entertaining and planned film would utilize its concept as a threat to all.
The plot itself is typical horror fare featuring the insufferably generic survivors frequently dying every few minutes. It is full of lame tropes (smug rich guy turns into a hero for no reason other than the plot says so) and stupid decisions. There’s an extremely stupendously irritating scene where one of our “heroes” takes almost an entire minute of creeping towards a sexual assaulter slowly before burying an axe in his chest. Last time I checked, people want help swiftly while being raped, not super-dramatic stagnated heroic theatrics.
Towards the ending there is one of the most inexplicably ridiculous and pointless plot twists in ages. You will feel flabbergasted as you bury one hand over your face shaking it disapprovingly in disbelief. At the very least though Aftershock builds to a crowd pleasing ending (provide the crowd or anyone in general sticks around for this long) that rolls the credits after an amusing final scene that I imagine everyone wants to see once they become aware of the surrounding environment. The film remembers what it has been promising and coasting too as it delivers an uproariously fitting final scene that is the films only act of brilliance.
Verdict: Aftershock is full of clichés, gratuitous gore, terrible acting, and unintentionally amusing death sequences. The movie ultimately misses the mark on effectively depicting a collapsed society during impending doom but it is moderately entertaining for horror aficionados with a desire to witness a graphic and plentiful body count.
Aftershock was released limited theatrically in May but is available now on Blu-Ray
This article was first posted on August 4, 2013