Thursday, May 9, 2013

A grisly mix of shock and schlock

If you know anything at all about contemporary horror movies, Eli Roth's name on a project tells you a lot. In the case of the Chilean-based Aftershock, Roth served as co-writer, producer and as one of the movie's principal actors. Roth (Hostel and Cabin Fever) has established a brand that stands for horror punctuated by nauseating displays of gore and ample helpings of sadistic torment. Both ingredients work themselves into Aftershock, a movie that begins as if it has no idea what it's about. A sextet of bickering American and Chilean pals -- three man and three young women -- hop from one Chilean club to another in search of sybaritic pleasures. At just about the time when you've deemed the movie pointless, director Nicolas Lopez shifts gears. A severe earthquake -- perhaps a precursor to a tsunami -- strikes Valparaíso with devastating force. The gorefest begins. We're talking severed appendages, crushed bodies and more. And if all that weren't enough, the screenplay eventually contrives to throw in a pack of roaming escapees from the local prison. Why not augment natural destruction with a little rape and murder? Bravado and a certain kind of gruesome creativity are hallmarks of this kind of cinema, but occasional flashes of grisly imagination can't redeem Aftershock, which I increasingly came to regard as another helping of exploitation, maybe even Aftershlock.

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