USA/Chile 2013, 89m, FilmNation/Cross Creek/Dragonfly/Sobras/Vertebra
Blu-Ray: StudioCanal (UK)
Santiago, Chile: A group of travellers are enjoying a night out in an underground nightclub when an earthquake hits the city. They struggle to find an exit, but on reaching the surface discover that their troubles have only just begun. Not only has a tsunami warning been issued, but there's been a breakout at the local prison...
Nicolás López directs from a screen play co-penned with Guillermo Amoedo and producer/co-star Eli Roth. Whilst it admirably tries to blend different ingredients (rom-com/thriller/horror) into an unusual brew, in this instance the disparate elements make uncomfortable bedfellows...
The first thirty minutes go to great pains to establish the characters, presumably so that the viewer will care about their eventual fates once the quake hits. However, it feels more like an extended travel report for a daytime TV show (apart from the swearing and binge-drinking, obviously), and jars incongruously with what follows.
Once the nightclub starts to cave in, the pace does pick up considerably and this particular sequence is well staged, as is a tense later scene on a cable car. However, as the movie progresses its deficiencies become all too apparent. For one thing, a group of escaped prisoners spot the girls in the group and decide to pursue them.
Now, if you had just escaped from prison, wouldn't you be concentrating on getting as far away as you could, as quickly as possible? Not these guys, they decide they want these girls, which leads me to my biggest bone of contention.
The escapees catch up with one of the girls and, to cut a long story short, she is then raped by not one, but two of them. The sequence is dwelt upon in a tasteless manner, and feels like an unnecessary appendage to the script. The fact that one of the girl's compadres returns and takes an axe to the second rapist does not make things any better, as he approaches so slowly that it simply provides an excuse for the camera to linger on the image. It's exploitation in the worst sense.
That's not the only problem the film has. Its supporting characters are one-dimensional at best, and if I were a resident of Santiago I'd feel frankly insulted by the cynical depiction.
In Aftershock's final hour, what we ultimately get is more like an old school, yet somewhat mean-spirited disaster movie which leaves a rather nasty aftertaste. The considerable merits of its technical execution are sadly far outweighed by too many critical misjudgements. You'll see the ending coming a mile away, too.