Movie Review: Aftershock

Directed by Nicolas Lopez
Starring Eli Roth, Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Natasha Yarovenko, Nicolas Martinez, Lorenza Izzo, Selena Gomez
Rated R
Release date: May 10, 2013 (Limited & VOD)

Eli Roth originally came on the Hollywood scene as a writer and director of retro style horror films. He crafted the films Cabin Fever and the surprisingly disturbing Hostel. Since those movies though he has produced others and has been acting quite a bit. In Aftershock, Roth is mostly just a figurehead behind the scenes on this one, as his main focus is being one of the lead actors. The film does feature a “presented by Eli Roth” topper, but that just again means figurehead. He is, however, listed as one of the writers along with three others. The writing credit makes me wonder if his influence is mostly in the odd humor that was added to the story. If so, he actually could be responsible for some of the main flaws in Aftershock.

Aftershock has been sold in the marketing as a horror film. The truth is that the film is more of a disaster movie that attempts to explore the evil that men do. It also tries to be horrific at times and scatter some campy humor throughout the running time. The set up for the film is a little familiar as far as Eli Roth’s film history goes. A group of travelers are vacationing in Chile seeing the sites. The day in question ends with the group heading to an underground club for drinking and dancing. Roth plays a nerdy divorced man with a daughter waiting for him back home. He’s also the only American, sort of giving us a peak into this group of friends. They of course meet up with a group of girls and begin to have a good time together. Just when things are heating up for the group there is a major earthquake which sees the club nearly completely collapsed. Now the group must traverse a devastated city in hopes of finding help and dodging a group of maniacal prisoners that have escaped in all of the chaos.

Directed by Nicolas Lopez, Aftershock really attempts to play in Eli Roth’s sandbox by melding some extremely shocking scenes with some off kilter dark humor. Roth himself had a great deal of trouble making this work in Hostel II, so executing the blend perfectly is a really difficult thing. The first act of the film is really strong, featuring solid acting and directing and the eventual destruction leads to some dramatic and surprising moments. The film appears to be a classic study of the depths that man will sink to when a disaster forces an every man for himself situation. Fortunately the film even gives a reason for the more extreme behavior by placing it in the hands of escaped convicts. We never learn exactly what all of these guys were convicted of, but it’s easy to assume they were pretty bad dudes.

Things start to go awry in act two and sadly fall apart in the third act. The comedy and gratuitous violence never find a home together. The two elements instead feel like puzzle pieces thrown together from different puzzles making their appearance jarring in an accidental way. The odd tonal changes begin to cause laughter at unintended parts, making the whole thing just not work. The one thing that’s the smartest about this film is that you never lose the feeling that anyone could die regardless of how large their part is. The danger remains real all the way to the end. The closing moments of the film start out not making sense based on the situation that has been set up and lead to a really hilarious closing moment. The very end of the film, right before the credits, was just hilarious. There is a twist at the midway point of Aftershock that also works well.

There are moments in Aftershock that are truly effective and actually pack a punch both dramatically and in classic shock factor and those moments make it worth a watch at home. The film isn’t a devastating failure, it’s not a rousing success, and it’s not a good “bad” movie. Aftershock just ends up being a film full of potential that just misses the mark, perhaps the saddest kind of film of all.

Aftershock was released theaters on May 10th, but is also available through Video On Demand through Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and more. I discovered it on Vudu. The film originally received an NC-17 rating and had to be edited down to an R rating. I’d be curious to check out what was torn outta this one.


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