J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Aftershock: Eli Roth’s Chilean Vacation


When natural disasters strike, the social order often breaks down.  Nevertheless, one still suspects the aftermath of a devastating earthquake would be more “orderly” if that evil old villain Pinochet were still in charge.  Whatever the case, hedonism turns to anarchy in Nicolás López’s Aftershock (trailer here), produced by co-star Eli Roth, which opens this Friday in New York.

When Ariel calls his friend Gringo, it is meant with affection.  Not so much with Pollo.  The American tourist puts up with it though, because the privileged Pollo knows a lot of women.  Hooking up with three hot foreign ones, they head off for a weekend of partying in the coastal town of Valparaíso.  Monica, the responsible one (just like in Friends) is not so sure it is a good idea, but nobody wants to listen to her.

That night in the club, a massive quake hits.  Just making their way to the street is an ordeal. Suddenly, it is dog eat dog on the streets.  Pollo’s connections mean nothing to the escaped prisoners roaming the city, but he is the only one of the group who speaks Spanish.  Do not get too attached to any character as they scramble to survive.

Essentially, López applies Roth’s aesthetics to an Irwin Allen-style disaster movie, reveling in the resulting death and destruction.  While Aftershock is not appointed with the customary horror movie trappings, it definitely follows in the midnight movie tradition.  To López’s credit, he delivers exactly what he promises. Aside from Roth’s surprisingly likable Gringo, it is hard to expend much sympathy for characters as they charge into the meat-grinder, but the one-darned-thing-after-another mechanics of it all are a spectacle to behold.

Roth’s everyman Gringo nicely serves as the audience’s forthright entry point into the madness and fellow standout Nicolás Martinéz is appropriately loud and annoying as the entitled Pollo.  Andrea Osvárt also finds some resiliency in Monica, but the other women are more decorative than memorable. Aftershock also boasts a supposedly surprise cameo appearance from a teen star developing a more adult persona.  Though it is more or less an open secret, it is rather insubstantial gimmick and not the reason to see Aftershock.

If you want to see self-absorbed partiers pay for their sins, then Aftershock is your huckleberry.  Sure, there is plenty of collateral damage, but that is how Roth and López roll.  For those looking for a dose of bloody cinematic mayhem, Aftershock fits the bill.  Recommended for cult movie veterans, Aftershock opens this Friday (5/10) in New York.

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