Eli Roth co-writes, produces and stars in this natural disaster horror from Chilean Nicolás López, who is best known in his homeland for his romantic comedies but shows an aptitude for staging gory chaos.
While the first half hour of the film plays as a “We’re going to get drunk and get laid!” movie, things quickly take a turn for the catastrophic and our partying heroes have to try and escape with their lives.
The main character, credited only as Gringo (Roth), is in Chile on vacation, being shepherded around the sights and nightlife by his friends Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolás Martinez). The group picks up fellow vacationers Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) and Kylie’s stern sister Monica (Andrea Osvárt). When a devastating earthquake hits while they are in a club, the group tries to head for higher ground, but the inmates of a nearby prison have been freed by the disaster and are right behind them.
Aftershock works best when the filmmakers manage to surprise or wrong-foot the viewer. The opening third goes on for longer than you might expect as we start to like this group of characters and are lulled into a false sense of security. Obviously, disaster isn’t very far away, but it’s still a shock when it arrives. López portrays just how suddenly a quake can strike and how devastating it is. Limbs are severed, bodies are crushed and lives are lost in a matter of moments. This middle section is where Aftershock is firing on all cylinders, as characters are picked off brutally and not in the order you might expect.
However, things go south when the natural disaster is combined with the crushingly inevitable threat of psycho killers. The final third is not without its moments, including a final five minutes that really impresses, but it settles into a slasher movie formula that feels unwelcome and unnecessary. In this respect, Aftershock fulfils its mission statement of showing how mother nature is scarier than anything people are capable of. It’s just a shame it had pick this method to do so.
It’s occasionally thrilling, boasts some real shocks and the performances are solid (that includes Roth, if you were wondering), but every slip into predictability knocks the film off its stride and they happen far too often. It’s certainly no disaster and it will be interesting to see what López does next, but Aftershock is disappointing.