Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Aftershock (2012)

‘Aftershock’ is the yin to the yang of last year’s ‘The Impossible’. If you felt an overwhelming sense of hope with a newfound faith in humanity watching that emotional and harrowing depiction of the devastating tragedy of the 2004 South Asian Tsunami in the Thailand hit region you will feel none of that here. In this fictionalized account based on the true events of the 2010 Chile earthquake and the chaos and disorder that followed it rather than witness the kindness of humanitarianism as you did in that film this is an analysis of the darkness of humankind with a disturbing and shocking study of just how fucked up people can be.

Two groups of travellers in Chili one three men - an American known only as Gringo (Eli Roth) and two natives good friends Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolás Martínez) - and the other three Hungarian women - half-sisters Monica (Andrea Osvárt) and Kylie (Lorenza Izzo) the oldest and youngest respectively and Kylie’s friend Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) - are on a night out together. While in an underground nightclub, a massive earthquake hits and although they all manage to escape the collapsing establishment, it becomes quickly apparent to them when reaching the surface that this is only the beginning of their nightmare as society breaks down all around them with all out anarchy entailing murder, rape, looting, mugging, property destruction etc. Their terrifying ordeal is intensified further by an impending tsunami.

I really enjoyed the concept of the movie more than I did the actual execution of it. The first act works the best with 30-minutes of fleshing out the protagonists and their relationships to one another that dictate the group dynamics with smatterings of good humour thrown in and foreshadowing disastrous events that will take place in the next two thirds of the film while Antonio Quercia’s cinematography takes full advantage of Chilli’s beautiful scenery. This is all very effective in helping us to get to know these characters to help us identify and sympathize with these luckless people when they are put through their horrific ordeal when the disaster of the earthquake suddenly hits and everything goes to hell in an abrupt change of tone. They are extremely likable and the few odd people of moral decency here. They are completely and utterly alone most of whom are in a country foreign to them in which nobody is willing to help but instead viciously attacks them as they are surrounded by the dregs of society.

The acting is strong all around especially from Osvárt and Roth is proving to be a capable actor as well as an interesting director. Three thoroughly enjoyable entertaining movies in and Eli Roth has matured as a filmmaker with each of these features and I am waiting for that first truly great horror film from him with my fingers tightly crossed for the to be released later this year ‘The Green Inferno’. Roth also had a hand in writing the screenplay here and it is obvious that he injected into the writing a similar narrative structure to his sophomore directorial effort the 2005 splatter movie ‘Hostel’. Yes, I labelled the aforementioned title as of the splatter sub-genre as there is no such thing as “torture porn” (see The Loved Ones (2009) and What the Hell is“Torture Porn”?!!!). Much like the first third of ‘Hostel’ it plays out like a lad’s comedy before the horror in the next two thirds with the suffering of these poor individuals here being the “aftershock” of the natural disaster with people bringing further destruction rather than bringing aid.

I can understand that director and co-writer Nicolás López wanted to move everything along at a frantic pace due to the extremity of the circumstances with everything going to shit but it all just feels rushed with little care given to pacing and building suspense. I did not feel any tension during the last hour with my hand not gripping the arm of the sofa one time and this is the film’s big problem as it squanders the potential it had to put you though a rollercoaster of emotions. Although, there is a constant sense of doom as anything the group attempts seems to be futile; stupid decisions are made from our protagonists due to the enormity of the pressure of the dire situations they are forced into reacting as believable normal people.

There are a couple of well-staged set-pieces and these sequences are commendable considering the modest budget of this independent production. The violence inflicted upon the group by the unsavoury citizens is as brutal and grim as you would expect. The unpleasantness of a nasty double rape is justified by the context that it has been put in with the misery of the harsh environment these fishes out of water have been placed in. There is plenty of gore splatter but it all looks terrible due to the usual shoddily lazy use of CGI that is all too depressingly common in modern horror.

I really wanted to like the movie more than I actually did as there is enough here to keep the viewer entertained for a worthwhile watch. Where it succeeds, it is satisfying, but where it fails, it makes it all frustrating in thinking of what could have been. It has an intriguing idea with its premise that is ambitious in scope for an indie film with well above average across the board performances from its main players given some thick characterization to work with. However, when it comes to the action of the horror it is too rushed lacking energy due to its pacing and build-up issues. I found it strange that a movie with so much going on could feel so lifeless. This topped off with some dodgy CGI blood just rubs insult into injury in thinking just how much better ‘Aftershock’ could have and should have been. Still, worth a watch for passable entertainment with a film that is overall just okay.

** out of ****

Dave J. Wilson

©2013 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.


  1. Well Shit. I was somewhat looking forward to seeing this one in theatres, but it looks like one I can wait and stream. Thanks for the advice.

    1. Yeah while it's not too good it's passable entertainment.