Thursday, August 15, 2013

Movie Review: Aftershock

Directed by: Nicolás López.
Written by: Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolás López and Eli Roth.
Starring: Lorenza Izzo (Kylie), Nicolás Martínez (Pollo), Eli Roth (Gringo), Natasha Yarovenko (Irina), Ariel Levy (Ariel), Andrea Osvárt (Monica), Marcial Tagle (Firefighter), Ramón Llao (Ramon), Álvaro López Álvarez (Jesus), Ignacia Allamand (Guide), Dayana Amigo (Bartender), Patricio Strahovsky (Priest), Matías López (Marito), Eduardo Domínguez (Russell Dazzle), Gabriela Hernández (Cleaning Lady), Edgardo Bruna (Grumpy Operator).

The Hostel movies, both written and directed by Eli Roth, are essentially stories of the prototypical “ugly American” in Europe who end up being tortured and killed by even uglier Americans. Neither the victims nor their killers have the slightest redeeming quality to them. Roth made grand pronunciations about his Hostel films being about the “post Abu Ghraib” world we live in – but if that was his intention, than he failed miserably. The Hostel movies are the poster children for “torture porn” – the films don’t say anything except all humans are awful and irredeemable, and filming and watching torture is fun!

Roth didn’t direct Aftershock – but he did co-write it, and has one of the lead roles. Essentially, this is another Hostel movie – this time in Chile instead of Eastern Europe, but the results are basically the same. Roth plays one of his “ugly Americans” in this movie – known only as Gringo – and like his characters in the Hostel movie, he is an ignorant buffoon. This time though, it isn’t Americans killing Americans in a foreign land, it’s mainly foreigners killing foreigners in a foreign land. The basic message is the same however – humanity sucks.

The film opens with a very long half hour segment of Gringo and his two Chilean “friends” – Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez) going from one place to another trying to get laid. They end up at an underground nightclub, where Gringo strikes out not only with the girl he came with – Irina from Russia (Natasha Yarovenko) but also with Selena Gomez (of course he did). Meanwhile Ariel and Pollo hit on a couple of half-sisters – Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), another Chilean, and Monica (Andrea Osvart), half Hungarian. Like the horny idiot boys in Hostel and the idiot girls (not quite as horny) in Hostel Part II, these people are morons.

Then an earthquake hits, the club starts to crash down around them – people are crushed and trampled – lots of people dead, and Ariel loses his hand – which is punished, which has more adventures than any inanimate hand in the movies since David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990). Eventually though these six people make their way to the surface – together – only to find that what’s on the surface is worse than the nightclub. See, humanity sucks, and a prison has collapsed, meaning a roving gang of rapists and murderers are now wandering the streets. And even the regular people aren’t much better, adopting a shoot first and never ask any questions mentality. They survived the quake – although aftershocks keep hitting them at the most inconvenient times – only to stumble onto something worse than Mother Nature – other people.

It is possible to make a great nihilistic horror movie. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) are perfect examples of that. More recent examples include films like Wolf Creek or Frontier(s). The difference between those films – all of which are at least good, and two of them are masterpieces – and Aftershock is that the filmmakers of those films took what they were doing – and the issues they were raising seriously. In Aftershock, it’s all a sick joke.

The movie starts as a lame, unfunny sex comedy – and once the earthquake hits, the whole film can be seen as almost a parody of the disaster film. There is no uplift here like in a movie like The Impossible. Director Nicolas Lopez and his writers are essentially making a comedy – I think anyway – but uses the horrific images they use merely to shock to the audience.

Why, for instance, do we need to see one of the women in the film raped repeatedly – often right alongside scenes of almost overtly over the top comic (yet bloody) deaths? This is the reason why to date Eli Roth has never come close to matching his friend/mentor –Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has his share of over the top comic violence in his films – and yet watch his recent film Django Unchained. Yes, the shootout that ends the film can surely be seen as comic violence if you like. However, Tarantino knows well enough that not all violence is equal – hence the scenes of slaves being whipped or forced to fight each other to the death or being ripped apart by dogs are not comic at all. They are stomach churningly brutal – as they should be. That is the point, after all. In Aftershock, it doesn’t matter what horrific act of violence is all display – it’s all the same to these filmmakers.

So in the end, Aftershock is another morally repugnant film that Eli Roth has contributed to. We shouldn’t be surprised by now that he keeps making this crap. I am surprised though that people keep paying him to.

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