Fantastic Fest 2012: ‘Aftershock’ a textbook serving of lowbrow entertainment

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Directed By Nicolás López
Written By Eli Roth and Nicolás López
USA, 2012

A disaster-survivalist thriller or a horror film? Aftershock is a bit of both. From director Nicolas Lopez (making his English-language debut), Eli Roth (Inglourious Basterds) headlines this slick but tasteless genre entry. Inspired by the Chilean earthquake, which killed a reported 525 people and left 9% of the population without homes, one has to first ask if watching such a horrific event turned into a grade-B horror flick is their cup of tea?

Slightly mimicking the plot of Hostel, Aftershock follows a group of party-goers who carouse their way through small Chilean towns until a major earthquake ravages the city and stops them dead in their tracks. Those left alive must band together and find a way to escape as things get worse by the minute.

Lopez’s film takes its time getting to the event. The first half offers light comedy and a decent setup placing a heavy emphasis on the characters, albeit one-dimensional stereotypes. As the sometimes fun, often annoying group of misfits make their way through the Chilean nightlife, audiences are treated to a rare glimpse of the exotic and sublime locales of Chile: Think The Hangover meets The Vice Guide To Travel. However, the second half of Aftershock feels disjointed and is devoted almost entirely to a tedious game of cat-and-mouse between the survivors and a gang of escaped prison inmates. The film loses focus on its very simple premise opting to build suspense around the crazed mob tearing through the town instead. Aftershock thus quickly transitions into direct survival horror – man vs. man and not man vs. nature, as awful men do horrible things and often against women. But if rape and angry mobs weren’t enough to derail the pic, Aftershock also has a bizarre moralistic undercurrent about abortion and the Catholic Church.

Aftershock is part entertaining and part eye rolling. Made for a budget of $10 million, the production has a schlocky, B-quality feel to it, yet remains easy on the eyes. Although gory, bloody and surprising at times, Aftershock works best as a buddy-comedy-road-movie with B-Picture stock characters spiralling through the first act.

If your looking for an admirable and affecting disaster film, seek out Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock, a horrific realistic recreation of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.

– Ricky D

Fantastic Fest runs from September 20 – September 27th.

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