I'll give Eli Roth this; having found a successful gimmick, he's not about to surrender it anytime soon. That particular gimmick can best be described as "Assholes abroad" -- an idea he tried out in the first Hostel and returns to again in Aftershock, the new horror film/disaster movie he co-wrote, produced and stars in, but didn't direct. Be grateful for small favors, I guess.
Hostel, of course, found a trio of obnoxious frat dude types touring Eastern Europe and staying the night at a hostel that doubled as a slaughterhouse. Aftershock packs a different trio of jackasses -- a divorced wallflower (Roth), a Zach Galifianakis-like troublemaker (Nicolás Martínez) and their mutual cuckolded pal (Matías López) -- off to Santiago, Chile, where they try to get up to as much trouble as humanly possible. The film's first half-hour is given over to their Hangover-like antics, which includes hitting on scantily-clad girls (specifically a trio of women who function as the Chipettes to the guys' Chipmunks) and potentially lethal levels of alcohol consumption. Just when their japery pisses you off enough to the point where you'd consider reaching through the screen and throttling them yourself, a mega-quake rocks Santiago, transforming the city into a rubble-strewn hellscape packed with roving gangs of rape-and-murder happy criminals, falling objects and all manner of other natural and unnatural disasters. Lost, wounded and scared, the Chipmunks and the Chipettes have to find a way to safety, while their numbers decrease one by one.
Aftershock's best attribute is the disregard it shows for the safety of its central "heroes" who perish in brutal and generally unexpected ways. (Sometimes too brutal; there's an ugly misogyny that runs throughout the film and becomes explicit in a completely gratuitous and unnecessary rape scene.) Even as someone who has seen a ton of horror movies, I was caught off guard by the manner and order in which the various characters met their ends. (I did, however, guess what the final shot would be long before we saw it. Let's just say when you introduce a tsunami in Act 1, it's going to be come back in Act 3.)
At the same time, though, if the only thing keeping you engaged in a movie is wondering when and how the people onscreen are going to die, then the filmmakers may as well just have made a series of five-minute snuff films rather than a full-length feature. Director Nicolás López doesn't display much interest in or aptitude for the other fundamentals of filmmaking -- you know, continuity, storytelling and directing actors -- anyway, and his shortcomings are highlighted by the movie's low budget. Some filmmakers find inventive ways to make a lot out of a little, but López makes the mistake of trying to cover up his limited resources through dim cinematography and chaotic editing. But don't worry about Roth; Aftershock's shoddiness hasn't convinced him to abandon the "Assholes abroad" genre. He's currently in post-production on his next directorial effort, The Green Inferno, in which a group of annoying activists head off to the Amazon with the intention of helping an indigenous tribe only to end up at their mercy instead. Predictable? Sure. But at least someone's doing something to cull America's asshole population.
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