Thursday, November 7, 2013



review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Nicolás López

Written by Nicolás López, Eli Roth, and Guillermo Amoedo

Starring: Eli Roth, Andrea Osvárt, Ariel Levy, Natasha Yarovenko, Nicolás Martínez, and Lorenza Izzo


If you're an Eli Roth enthusiast or a fan of brutal survival horror movies with a taste for the bleak and nasty, AFTERSHOCK is a definite must-own.

Based on the real-life 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile in 2010, Aftershock is a disaster horror film in which, to quote the movie's tagline, "the only thing worse than mother nature is human nature." In the coastal town of Valparaíso, Chile, a group of young foreign tourists -- an American gringo (horror celebrity Eli Roth), a Russian (Natasha Yarovenko) and two feuding sisters (Lorenza Izzo and Andrea Osvárt) -- are being introduced by two local friends (Ariel Levy and Nicolás Martínez) to the sexy and colorful underground world of the city's nightclub scene. On their final night of drinking and partying in Chile, their dream vacation suddenly turns into a nightmare. A devastating earthquake rocks the fragile South American city and plunges Valparaíso into a crumbling chaos of death, brutal destruction, and societal disintegration. In the wake of the quake, a wave of violence perpetuated by looters, rioters, rape-happy gang members, and escaped prisoners overtakes what's left of the streets. What begins as a sexy vacation movie turns into a harrowing and desperate survival tale that puts its characters (and audience) through a grueling emotional wringer. In Aftershock, no one is safe.

I absolutely LOVED Aftershock. I haven't been this engrossed and enthralled by a survival horror film in a long time. Based on director López's experience living in Chile during the earthquake of 2010, Aftershock feels firmly rooted in that real-world terror while simultaneously employing the best shocking and sensational elements of the grindhouse era. Aftershock also comes with a surprisingly bleak outlook that's hard to find in most commercially pasteurized horror films today. With Eli Roth on board to supply his dorky charm in a starring role, Aftershock is a sensational simulation of a humanitarian disaster.

Under López's direction, Aftershock takes you on a full visual and tonal journey from splendor to splatter that's brilliantly subtle in its construction. Aftershock starts off as a bright and colorful buddy comedy that has more in common with The Hangover than Hostel. López takes great pains to paint Chile as beautiful, vibrant, and fun country in contrast to the dystopian horror it will soon become. At the same time, López still manages to sow the seeds of discord and misery that will take root later in the film. Slowly, in anticipation of the quake, the humour becomes subtly darker and more morbid. Building up to the characters' darkest hour, the happy facade of the group begins to fray as tensions come to a head during a tense emotional confrontation between the two sisters at an underground nightclub. At the climax of their blowout, the quake strikes. 

The inner turmoil of the characters is now materialized in the world around them as an awesome and uncompromising natural disaster. During the terrifying maelstrom, people are crushed, trampled, shredded over broken glass, and electrified by downed power cables. The streets split open and buildings tumble. There are some moments of broad black humour during the early stages of the devastation, but soon the black laughter gives way to cringing dread. From this point on, Aftershock kicks into apocalyptic mode and puts its survivors through a series of devastating life or death choices and nail-biting struggles while panic, paranoia, and humanity's worst nature replaces law and order. Characters begin to die, each death an unpredictable blow, until Aftershock concludes with a traumatic, nerve-wracking, and bitter-sweet escape reminiscent of The Descent and perhaps even Night of the Living Dead.

Whether you like Aftershock as much as I do will depend on how you take your horror movies. Do you need clear-cut teenage good guys and bad guys, a moral motive for the destruction and deaths, or an uplifting validation of life in the end to have a good time? Yeah, then Aftershock's probably not for you. Are you satisfied by bleak, nihilistic horror that's unapologetically violent, emotionally raw, and populated by flawed characters who are nonetheless portrayed by compelling actors? Can you handle things not being all sewn up and safe by the end? Then we recommend Aftershock. It's an earth-shattering ride from beginning to end.

Aftershock will be available on DVD and DVD+Bluray combo in Canada from VVS Films on November 12. Special features include an audio commentary by Eli Roth, a making-of featurette, and a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects.

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