Anchor Bay // 2012 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 3rd, 2013
An American tourist (Eli Roth, Inglourious Basterds) is enjoying the Chilean nightlife with his buddies Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez). While out at a club the threesome meet up with a group of attractive ladies, including a Russian model (Natasha Yarovenko, Room in Rome), a crazy party girl (Lorenza Izzo, The Green Inferno), and her morose sister (Andrea Osvart, Maternity Blues). The drinks are plentiful and the music sufficiently loud until a massive earthquake rocks Chile, sending this group of tourists into a tailspin of crushed bodies, dangerous looters, and deadly Aftershocks!
There was a time when disaster movies -- especially those in the 1970s -- were meant to inspire an unfailing feeling that mankind can overcome anything mother nature throws at us. Rousing speeches were made, sacrifice was offered for the sake of the innocent, and eventually the survivors (not all, but some) made it to safety. They were movies that offered up thrills but also triumph of the soul to crowd pleasing effect.
Those times are long since past.
I guess I should have known what I was in for when I noticed horror-auteur Eli Roth was starring in Aftershock. Roth is a filmmaker who rose to prominence as a writer/director with Cabin Fever, about a flesh eating bacteria that takes down five kids in a remote cabin, and Hostel (as well as its sequel), a grand guignol style yarn about an elite overseas 'club' that pays to torture unsuspecting tourists. Obviously, Roth is not a filmmaker who revels in subtlety or tact.
Aftershock is in the tradition of The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Earthquake (where it takes most of its inspiration). The filmmakers take a group of party-goers, add in a devastating earthquake, shake, stir, and pour. At this point any filmgoer worth their salt knows how this all plays out. Some will live. Some will die. Actually, scratch that -- all will die. 2013 isn't 1975, and due to how extreme movies have become, it will come as no surprise that pretty much everyone in Aftershock gets their comeuppance one way or another.
The special effects work is just a notch below, say, 2012, but is also far superior to anything on the Syfyy channel. This means that when someone's cranium become concave due to a falling rock, you'll see it in anatomically correct detail. To Aftershock's credit, there were at least two moments where I was surprised by who lived and who died. So, I give the film marks for keeping me guessing. The actors all do about as good as can be expected with a screenplay that exists only to dispatch them in ways that will make you queasily turn away from the screen.
Unlike the classic '70s disaster movies, Aftershock's core survivors aren't just dealing with the environment. This time they have to contend with being raped, skewered, sawed, fricasseed, and generally mashed into lumps of red goop. How unpleasant this is will depend on how much you like Roth's films; there's a lot of gore and grizzle here, and characters get dispatched in shiver-inducing ways. Although Roth didn't direct Aftershock (he's a producer and writer), his fingerprints are all over the final product. The director (and co-writer with Roth) is newcomer Nicolás López, who keeps the pace frantic and the blood flowing freely...although for all intents and purposes, this is really an Eli Roth venture.
Aftershock is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Anchor Bay has done a very nice job on this transfer; the print is very clean and looks great for standard DVD. Much of Aftershock takes place during the night, so a lot of the sequences look sufficiently dark and dirty. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. This is a very aggressive sound mix, especially during the last half of the film. Directional effects are plentiful and often disturbing (I imagine lots of bags of stomped on ketchup were used to make this audio mix). Also included on this disc are Spanish subtitles.
Bonus features include an international commentary track with Eli Roth and director Nicolás López (one in America, the one overseas) and two featurettes ("The Making of Aftershock," "Shaking Up the Casting Process") on the making Aftershock.
A review for a film like Aftershock seems almost perfunctory; either this sort of thing appeals to you, or it doesn't. Do you like watching attractive twenty-somethings becoming human pancakes? Does an extended sequence with a severed hand being kicked around appeal to you? Then Aftershock will be right up your alley.
No more and no less the movie it needs to be.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R