Written by Eli Roth, Nicolás López, Guillermo Amoedo
Directed by Nicolás López
For his ten-year anniversary of Cabin Fever going epidemic, the impossibly cool Eli Roth graciously returns to the Toronto International Film Festival as the producer, co-writer and star of Nicolás López’ sixth feature. Aftershock, seen here for the first time ever, had been on a back burner since Roth and Lopez hit it off at the latter’s debut premiere. The piece reportedly morphed from science fiction to natural disaster after many cast and crew members were involved in a mercifully lesser – yet still catastrophic, of course – version of the freshly screened event.
An international group of tourists including the American “Gringo” (Roth), Chilean “Pollo” (Nicolás Martínez) and Hungarian Monica (Andrea Osvárt) vacationing in Chile finds themselves in for a gruesome night of tremors, collapses, stampedes and much more when an earthquake brutally changes the face of their surroundings and breaks out a prison of miscreants. Roth and López are sure to let us spend ample time getting to know our cast before systematically picking them off, and the even collection of rounded portrayals leaves us unable to predict the impending order of death, dismemberment and one simple-minded twist. Were the quake not to hit we would still have a passable, often hilarious character-driven film about worldly friends in the iGeneration. Beyond the unforgiving onslaught of kills forgoing of generated sympathies, our filmmakers do not attempt the subversion of tried and true genre tropes but they do let loose with close to everything they desire to include thanks to their shedding of politically correct U.S. producers.
Somewhat overshadowing the midnight world premiere madness, however, is the behavior of a self-allegedly drunk López. As with the gore display in his film, little was off-limits for the 29-year-old filmmaker from homophobic masturbation jabs to the begging of female audience members for accompaniment back to his hotel and off color remarks regarding 9/11 and the true events at the core of Aftershock. The young man seems to aspire to be the persona non grata of TIFF, even twice invoking Lars Von Trier’s notorious defense of his mistaken Hitler quip at Cannes (memory of which put the audience on pins and needles when a similar subject arose due to Roth’s performance in Inglourious Basterds). These pre- and post-show antics had both the host and cast shaking their heads while a bemused Roth offered amicable mediation.
Despite the scandalous bookends (which also happened to include many references to franchise sequels such as The Secret of the Ooze and Electric Boogaloo), Aftershock has done its job and garnered itself a theatrical release plan. With few punches pulled and nearly every aspect accomplished through refreshingly practical effects, the film provides a 90-minute thrill party at efficiency rates. There is hardly a pinch of salt or slather of butter, but if it’s meat and potatoes you’re craving it’s tough to go wrong with this menu.
– Tom Stoup