I am rather weary of all the mainstream Hollywood films and so I’ve decided to skip “TheGreat Gatsby” and instead went to check out a film in the independent horror circuit. Having no relation to the powerful Chinese drama “Aftershock” by Feng Xiaogang, director Nicolas Lopez’s “Aftershock” has Eli Roth’s name as actor, producer and co-writer and so I gave it a chance. Horror fans know Roth from his ‘torture porn’ flicks such as the “Hostel” film franchise and “Cabin Fever”. This film is meant to express our fears of natural disasters and how dark human nature can be. The film is not really that scary nor thrilling, but at the very least, it can serve as a diversion from a lazy, hot afternoon.
The film’s set up is as simple as can be. It serves as an opening as to how a happy, care-free situation can turn quickly into something quite horrible. Life moves fast and often, unexpectedly and this is where is group of travelers were having a great time going to nightclubs, wineries and tourist destinations in Chile. Gringo ( I am assuming not his real name played by Eli Roth) and his friends, Pollo and Ariel (Nicolas Martinez and Ariel Levy respectively) hook up with another group of females, Monica (Andrea Osvart), Kylie (Lorenza Izzo) and Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) as they become caught in the middle of a 9.5 magnitude earthquake in a nightclub. The disaster results in collapse of societal norms, the group must do what they can to survive the night through quakes, escaped inmates and a possible tsunami….
The screenplay was meant to bring forth the concept just how a good situation can quickly turn into a bad one, as tourists visiting in another country can be the most lost when caught in a disaster. The direction also tries to bring in the idea just how low humanity can stoop to when presented with an opportunity to behave like animals. True, some try to help while some want to loot, kill and rape in a very sensitive situation. There really is nothing different that the screenplay had presented to the foundations of its premise. But even a premise as original or as simple as this can be compelling as long as the characters are solid, and the plot developments are clever. This is where the script fails in many areas, it fails to immerse and even with some surprise twists, it becomes a little too cheap as it had no power in its narrative.
First off, the characters of ‘team Gringo’ carry the staples of movies of this genre. Yes, Gringo is a man just recently separated with a daughter and his friends wish to take him to have a little fun by meeting promiscuous women. Eli Roth presents a character that pretty much resembles someone who can be ‘goodie-goodie’ and a little boring to hot women. Roth does fit his character, but his supporting characters, Pollo and Ariel were just too one-dimensional to add intricacies to the flow of the plot. Andrea Osvart had potential as Monica, but she was a little too underwritten to make a difference. Her performance also lacked as she became rather forgettable and became characters that were mere fodder along with Lorenza Izzo and Natasha Yarovenko (but they sure looked good as sexy eye candy).
Once the earthquake hits, the film goes into overdrive as our cast in taken to one dire situation to the next. However, it fails to induce a scare, much less provide suspense as it struggled to break free from genre conventions that made the developments of its script very predictable and tedious. I do have to say that the film does not relent with the gruesome images. The direction showed a lot of blood and grisly imagery, the earthquake and the aftershock looked convincing enough, but Lopez just did not have the skills to shoot the scenes to fully utilize the excruciating experience of the characters. I am not sure what he really was going for, I mean, Lopez could’ve been trying to shock as with the darkness of human nature or it was trying to impress with the intended over-the-top B-movie violence; but he fails to make an impact in both areas. The final act also stuck to genre conventions that even when it wasn’t expected, it sure did not reach its intended ‘pop’ in the script.
Living in the Bay area, and even in my native land, I know just how scary an earthquake can be. “Aftershock” fails in delivering this intensity, and then it fails to bring forth the drama and the fear that comes from being preyed upon by your fellow human beings. The script felt a little too disjointed and it felt a little too over the place. Not sure what it wanted to be, but even when it tried to wallow in a bloodbath and gruesome imagery that it felt restrained, it just could not deliver on the necessary scares and thrills. It is not even funny or shocking, as the direction and writing brings the viewer to a very familiar path and that path isn’t a very good one. Yeah, while it isn’t exactly a good movie, it isn’t exactly a waste of time. There were scenes that had a lot of potential for tension, and the cast looked like they were having a ball filming it.
Ok for a Rental with a group of friends. [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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