The great disaster films have a common thread. Human beings, usually ordinary type people, who face death and are doing whatever they can to survive. It isn’t always about the story itself. The original Poseidon Adventure is brilliant, while the remake that came 24 years later in the form of Poseidon was only ordinary.
This becomes particularly difficult to do when dealing with a natural disaster, as is the case in The Towering Inferno, Earthquake and The Impossible. Now we have a new entry in the genre and it’s a good one.
Aftershock is filled with horrifying moments, but it isn’t really a horror film. It’s a disaster film and there just aren’t enough good ones being made in that genre in recent years. Eli Roth is “Gringo”, the good friend of “Ariel” (Ariel Levy) who he is visiting in Chile. Ariel is very close with “Pollo” (Nicolas Martinez) who is a wealthy playboy type. Gringo is from L.A. and has a daughter back home that he misses badly, but he’s doing his best to enjoy his time in Chile.
After several parties, Pollo suggests they journey to Valparaiso, on the Chilean coast, where a really big party is going to be held. Since none of the trio has had any success yet with their individual quests to get laid, Gringo and Ariel agree. Once there, they meet a pair of sisters, “Kylie” (Lorenza Izzo), who is a wildchild, and her half-sister “Monica (Andrea Osvart), who was sent by their father to keep an eye on Kylie. A difficult task even at the best of times, it becomes seriously challenging in the wild party atmosphere. Gringo also meets “Irina” (Natasha Yaravenko), a gorgeous model who is smarter than you may think.
The six go sightseeing together and then the wildest party of all takes place. A massive earthquake strikes. The group immediately faces challenges just to survive and they only get worse. There is a prison near Valparaiso and it has collapsed, freeing all of the inmates. They are running rampant and government officials seem conspicuous by their absence, making no visible attempt to restore order.
Partying followed by horrifying events seems formulaic for Roth and there are parallels between this film and Hostel. This film is not nearly as disquieting as Hostel, nor does it skirt the edge of the violence being almost pornographic in nature like that earlier film. What makes Aftershock so compelling is that the graphic deaths sometimes come so suddenly that even the most avid horror-film devotee will be surprised.
Gringo is a nice, divorced Jewish guy and since that appears to be part of Roth’s reality, portraying on the screen wasn’t much of a challenge. He is a good actor (see Inglorious Basterds for proof) but this isn’t his best work. Osvart is solid and Martinez amusing. The impressive achievement here is the direction provided by Nicolas Lopez. He gives the audience an intense experience, with impressive filmmaking. He enables us to see the humanity of the victims as they do their best to survive what may well be impossible to live through.