PLOT: An American tourist (Eli Roth) partying in Chile with his two buddies, finds himself trapped in a coastal town hit by a terrible earthquake. Making matters worse, the inmates of the local prison escape in the chaos, and take to the streets with guns and an appetite for carnage.
REVIEW: Of all the films to play Midnight Madness at TIFF this year, AFTERSHOCK's the one that's walked away with the biggest deal, with Dimension Films picking it up for a presumably wide release somewhere down the line. It's easy to see why as Nicolas Lopez' film is a slick, confident genre entry with a dynamic visual style, and an appealing cast of characters, with the camaraderie under duress reminding me of the similar dynamics you'd find in a John Carpenter movie.
But, AFTERSHOCK is also disturbingly evocative of the torture porn aesthetic in horror, which I've always found really distasteful. While it's certainly a lot tamer than Eli Roth's own HOSTEL, AFTERSHOCK digs into that territory, with the subplot of the rape-crazed inmates escaping jail seeming extraneous to what was previously a really solid disaster flick, with more than enough gore for the hardcore fans.
I guess adding this gang was a way to kick up the horror a notch, as Lopez seems interested in changing the game over and over again throughout the film. The first half-hour is like THE HANGOVER meets SIDEWAYS, with the middle-aged Roth, a divorced dentist who hooks up with two party dudes (Ariel Levy and Nicolas Matinez- who looks and acts like a Chilean Zack Galifinakis) in an effort to score chicks (he's shot down in an amusing cameo by Selena Gomez). They in turn hook up with a trio of girls, including Russian model Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) and a pair of sisters, the wild Kylie (Lorenza Izzo) and the responsible Monica (Andrea Osvart) who eventually emerges the film's heroine.
The slow burn of the first half hour works really well, as Roth and co., are a fun enough group that you'll enjoy watching them carouse their way through the wild looking Chilean nightlife. The second half hour is the initial disaster part of the film, when the earthquake hits, and our heroes must try and escape the city before a devastating tsunami hits. Like the first part, the second half hour is terrifically entertaining, with wild gore effects that made AFTERSHOCK look like a seventies disaster movie on speed.
But then we get to the rapey final third, at which point AFTERSHOCK, which had previously been great, becomes just another HOSTEL clone. I pretty much zoned out at this point, with the lengthy rape scene being really hard to take (although it's at least shot with some restraint), along with some of the more agonizingly violent deaths of the finale. While I'm sure Lopez and Roth made exactly the film they wanted to make, I can't help but wish AFTERSHOCK hadn't taken this torture porn turn in the finale, as up to then it was a really fun ride. However, the audience I saw it with seemed to go for it, ending and all- hook line and sinker, so maybe I'm in the minority on not liking the last part of the movie. As it is, AFTERSHOCK is 2/3rd's of a good movie, which I guess deserves a pass and many horror entries these days can't even say that. But it's frustrating, as AFTERSHOCK could have been better.