** (out of 5)
May 10, 2013
Eli Roth as GRINGO
Andrea Osvárt as MONICA
Lorenza Izzo as KYLIE
Natasha Yarovenko as IRINA
Ariel Levy as ARIEL
Nicolás Martínez as POLLO
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Directed by: Nicolás López
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In some ways, I think “Aftershock” came too late. It’s just not the kind of movie that audiences are eager to see any more. Maybe if it had been released seven or eight years ago, amid the changing horror landscape that included torture porn stalwarts “Saw” and “Hostel,” it might have really caused a splash. Now, it will likely be seen by many as simply unpleasant.
Eli Roth, who is of course known for his update on the slasher genre with the original “Hostel,” produces and stars in this new film. He’s the biggest (and pretty much the only) recognizable name in the credits, so like Tyler Perry, it’s that which causes the buzz surrounding the film.
Roth plays a character simply referred to as “Gringo,” who is on vacation in Chile with a couple friends. The first act of the film features Gringo and his buddies club hopping through the Santiago party scene, trying to meet girls and get laid. They’re all pretty awful characters, either elite snob with money or whining pariahs. They eventually meet a group of girls, including a Russian beauty and two sisters with one playing the rebel while the other plays the parent.
After a night and day and night of partying, they end up in a run-down city on Chile’s coast, finding an underground nightclub. Suddenly, an earthquake tears apart the club, and the patrons flee. Injured and bleeding, the group tries to find their way out of the city, but when a roving band of prisoners that escaped from a collapsed jail show up, Mother Nature becomes the least of their worries.
If I had more faith in Roth and his director Nicolás López, I might believe this was a greater cinematic experiment than just to make people cringe and feel uncomfortable for half of the movie. After all, there’s something to be said by showing the audience characters you end up despising, only to find sympathy for them in the second half of the movie.
Alas, I don’t feel that was the film’s intention. Sure, this is an interesting approach to your standard film about criminals terrorizing innocents with rape, torture and murder. But in the end, it’s still a movie about the rape, torture and murder of innocents. And that sort of thing has run its course in the mid-2000s (just as it did in the mid-1970s before it).
However, unlike other video nasty films, there’s no sense of justice or revenge. What makes notorious classics “The Last House on the Left” and “I Spit on Your Grave” work is the comeuppance that the bad guys receive, in the most creative ways in those particular films. Similarly, movies like “Hostel” and even the lesser-known “Tursitas” have at least a modicum of hope and a certain (if not somewhat warped) moral compass.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the set-up of “Aftershock.” It’s that the movie just goes too far with the misery porn angle. Sadly, this movie is too focused on punishing the characters in the film – and the people watching the movie – than telling a good story.
There is one fleeting moment near the end that introduces a rather interesting angle of moral ambiguity, but that moment is quickly squandered and brushed aside for more punishment and misery. Ultimately, “Aftershock” ends up having the nihilistic outlook of “Funny Games” with the charming international optimism of “Hostel.” It may excite the brutal horror movie crowd, but it will likely also turn away any casual viewers.