Aftershock (2012) Blu-ray Review: A Disaster / Horror Film that Wants to Be More, but Fails Miserably

In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Chile. Writer/director Nicolás López was there and one of the things that struck him was not only the terrible destruction that the quake caused but how ordinary citizens suddenly threw away all the bounds of conventional society. Looting was rampant as well as sexual assaults, rape, violence, and murder. In discussions with Eli Roth, they decided to make a movie about that very thing.

I’m right there with them, that sounds like an excellent concept for a movie. Unfortunately neither of them were able to create something interesting from that initial idea. It is a by the numbers, utterly unoriginal, poorly paced horror movie that holds very few scares and only a few small moments of anything approaching interesting.

For a movie that need only be about the quake and the baddies and the horror, it spends an entirely too long amount of time setting everything up. It starts with an American – who’s called “Gringo” because, you know, that’s what all Chileans call Americans. He’s played by Roth who created the Hostel films which are known for their intense gore and little else. At this point, it is a toss up on whether he’s a worse actor, director or producer. Anyways, Gringo is hanging out with his pal Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Ariel’s friend, Pollo (Nicolás Martínez). He’s rich and has a well-connected father which seems to be an important point, but the writing is so muddled it’s not entirely clear why.

They do the touristy thing for a bit, but Pollo wants to party and takes them to various clubs. Gringo is terrible at meeting girls and in the film’s best scene he meets Salena Gomez and tries to hit on her, but fails miserably. Eventually, they meet Monica (Andrea Osvárt), Irina (Natasha Yarovenko), and Kylie (Lorenza Izzo) and wind up at an exclusive underground club. All of this takes nearly 45 minutes of screen time. There is a lot of sitting around talking and complaining and doing a bunch of nothing. It’s supposed to be developing the characters so that we’ll get to know them or care about them or something, but it’s really just boring and repetitive and doesn’t in any way make one interested in these people’s lives.

For example, there is a scene in which the gang wants to go up a funicular to another club. Because there are others on the funicular, only some of the gang can get on. Gringo makes a big deal of it and offers the others some money to get off because “only peasants wait.” The funicular is shown to be very old and rickety so that you know we’ll wind up seeing it later with catastrophic results. The scene wants to do several things. It want to make a point about how money can get you anything (and there are several scenes that do this, with muddled results) and it wants to add some tension with the rusty funicular. But it’s just dull. The money bits don’t play well in what is otherwise a straight-up disaster/horror film. And they fail to really build any real tension with the funicular.

Scene after scene is like this. A lot of nothing much happens but darn if they aren’t trying to create something out of it.

When the quake finally comes, it’s more of a relief than a shock. The gang is in the secret underground club, which promptly collapses. People die, hands are lost, freaking out is had. The gang gets topside where already looting, raping. and killing is occurring. No cops can be seen or found anywhere. They run into some crazies who harass them and do other things that I won’t spoil here. There is violence and gore, but nothing too shocking for the horror fan. Lots of poor decisions are made as one by one our gang is killed.

One of the characters in the long, boring beginning is discovered to have had an abortion but is apparently plagued by guilt over it. So of course she comes across dead children and dozens of baby corpses and at one point literally crawls her way through a womb like cave to freedom. This is that sort of movie. Aiming for something more, but miserably failing.

It’s the sort of film that wants to go deeper than your typical violence filled horror film. It wants to create interesting and meaningful symbolism. It wants to be a great film, but should have just stuck to buckets of blood and and big scares. For it never gets close to anything meaningful and in the attempt it falls short of even interesting horror.

The Blu-ray video looks decent. Before the quake and in the light, the quality of the picture looks rather good, but once things get shook up everything goes dark and muddled. The audio is quite good with lots of bass rumbles through the quake’s aftermath.

Extras include a audio commentary with Eli Roth and writer/director Nicolás López. They are informative and entertaining, but the movie is so bad even lively commentary can’t spice it up. There’s also a ten-minute making-of feature that discusses the real quake that inspired the movie and a brief featurette that puts the actors into a box and shakes them up.

Aftershock could have been good. The concept of society turning to anarchy and violence after a catastrophic event is ripe with interesting drama. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to go for carnage and gore (and ultimately failed to even make that interesting) and the results are as dull as can be.

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Mat Brewster

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