In an earthquake, everyone thinks of what goes on during. Well, duh. But in Chilean director Nicolas Lopez’s film Aftershock, the question is “What happens after the buildings fall down?”
The answer, of course, is bloody mayhem. Co-written with horror director Eli Roth, Aftershock takes a group of young party-goers through a nightmare which only begins with a major earthquake. Roth also stars as “Gringo”, an American whose vacation in Chile doesn’t quite go the way they describe it in the brochure. He and his companions survive the initial quake (almost intact) but have to contend with collapsing buildings, a gang of escaped convicts, and an impending tsunami in their search for someplace safe.
Drawing on stories and experiences of Chileans who lived through the earthquake of 2010, including some of the cast, Lopez creates a believable world of gritty chaos, where the rules no longer apply. Given its low-budget origins (around $2 million according to the director commentary), the destruction looks convincing, with good use of Chilean locations like underground tunnels and a funicular railway, and lots of well-staged practical effects that give real heft to the action.
But this is a horror movie, not a documentary, so there is also a fair share of gory suspense and plot surprises. Lopez is better known as a comedy director in his native country, and this is his first English language film. ButThe filmmakers keep you guessing, gleefully twisting audience expectations of who will live and who will die. And when anyone can die at anytime, that’s when horror movies work best. In that respect, it doesn’t hurt that most of the characters are ambiguous or not especially likable.
“Aftershock” does take a while to get started, taking its time setting up the characters and the atmosphere of night life in the Chilean cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. But once the quake hits, it is relentless. There is a sense of genuine energy and enthusiasm pulsing through this film that allows it to ride through some over the top moments. Not all of the plot threads pay off, and some of the character developments are more convenient than logical (the actions of a fireman, saved by the group, seem particularly puzzling, given the last reel revelation about who he really is).
But “Aftershock” is a crafty and tensely edited surprise on the whole, and works some serviceable magic within the limits of down-and-dirty genre conventions.
The Blu-ray disc of “Aftershock” is presented in 1080p widescreen, in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Picture quality is excellent, with the bright colors of the night club scenes popping nicely, and the shadowy chaos showing good detail and contrast. There are subtitle options for English, English SDH and Spanish.
The audio track is 5.1 DTSHD-Master Audio, and there is careful attention to balance and spread in the crashes and booms and shouts and all that.
- A jokey, casual commentary track with writer/star Eli Roth and director Nicolas Lopez. Enjoyable for its details about the location shoots, the quasi-guerilla tactics they used on some shots, and inside jokes about actress Lorenza Izzo’s ass (she joins them by speaker phone at one point).
- A making-of featurette that’s not bad, but ends quite abruptly
- “Shaking Up The Casting Process” –Footage from a practical joke staged during the casting process, where the filmmakers simulated an earthquake in a changing room being used by auditioners. Given that some of the prank victims were probably in an actual earthquake, this seems a stunningly cruel and unfunny stunt.
After a slow start, “Aftershock” finds its footing when the chaos begins, and puts a lot of energy into its horror story of earthquake survivors trekking through the aftermath.