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Chilean filmmaker Nicolas Lopez teams up with actor-writer-producer Eli Roth for a horror-disaster movie hybrid that sees a dispirate group of tourists and revellers battle to survive after a massive earthquake hits Chile. Roth has explored similar territory before with his Hostel films, in which he introduces audiences to a bunch of loathsome Westerners whom the audience grows to despise, before then starting to brutalise and murder them in increasingly horrific ways. This time out Roth himself plays one of the “heroes”, credited only as Gringo, who is partying at a nightclub with his friends Ariel Levy and Nicolas Martinez, and meet a trio of girls – in the shapely forms of Andrea Osvart, Lorenza Izzo and Natasha Yarovenko. After the quake hits they must band together, overcome aftershocks, fires, looters and escaped convicts if they are to survive the night. Needless to say, not all of them do.

Now, I have no problem with horror films that go all out to shock their audience, or even ones that revel in the fates of their characters, but Aftershock makes no attempt to paint its characters as anything other than despicable, and goes to great lengths to ensure as much harm comes to them as possible. Lopez doesn’t seem to want us to be frightened or horrified by what we see on screen, but rather to be amused and tickled as characters are killed, mutilated and, most distressingly, sexually abused. Yes, this is schlocky fun for the late night gorehounds, but the casual, mean-spirited sadism of the film fell completely flat with me. Long before the end of the film, its ridiculous plot twists were even starting to get predictable, so even the absurdity of the unfolding drama failed to entertain.

While Aftershock is what we have come to expect from Roth, director Lopez appears to have made his name in Chile through comedies about high school geeks, superhero fantasies and lads struggling with their relationships. While I mentioned that much of the comedy in Aftershock failed to hit its mark for me, tonally it was similar to Eli Roth’s style of humour, which only makes me more curious to see how Lopez fares on his own, away from such a domineering influence. While Aftershock has certainly brought Lopez to the attention to a much larger, English-speaking audience (which includes me), it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. With a third installment of his Que Pena tu… series already out and a sequel to his debut feature Promedio Rojo on the way, he seems keen to stick with comedy. The director’s second English language film may prove a better indicator of his future career aspirations.

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