Saturday, 9 November 2013

AFTERSHOCK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Blood-soaked Eli Roth-produced disaster thriller hits Blu-Ray via VVS

An American vacationing in Chile (Eli "The Bear Jew" Roth from Inglourious Basterds) and his two local pals hook up with some babes for a taste of the exotic sights and sounds of various tourist traps as well as the delights of inebriation, dancing and meeting a clutch of hot chicks. Danger rears its ugly head when our 30-something revellers become trapped in an underground nightclub during a massive earthquake. With several deadly aftershocks and constant tsunami warnings, they escape onto the surface, but with the potential for further natural disaster, they look for higher ground. Their goal, of course, involves making it through the perils of societal collapse, crazed looters and escaped convicts looking for babes to rape. With globs of proverbial shit hitting the fan, mankind proves to be the most deadly adversary of all.

Aftershock (2012) **1/2
Dir. Nicolás López
Starring: Eli Roth, Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Nicolas Martinez, Lorenza Izzo, Natasha Yarovenko

Review By Greg Klymkiw

From their 70s heyday and up to the contemporary Roland Emmerich laugh-fests, disaster movies have been a staple of big screen entertainment at various points throughout film history. They are most definitely not without their pleasures. Lots of stars, big money and state of the art special effects pull out all the stops to allow us the visceral edification of safely, passively and vicariously participating in the mega-destruction of our fellow man. I have no real problem with this. Who, after all, doesn't enjoy watching people suffer and/or die?

Well, inexplicable as this might be to some, a good many don't. However, within the categorical context of the bonafide disaster genre (including the likes of Airport, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno), as opposed to genuinely harrowing dramas detailing the effects and/or after-effects of natural and/or man-made disasters such as A Night To Remember or Fearless - many, under the right circumstances do indeed drool over the prospect of watching (mostly) innocent people bite the bullet. God knows, even James Cameron's Titanic (wishing to be in the latter and loftier aforementioned category as opposed to the former) has us all rooting for the iceberg - impatiently waiting for mass death and, in particular, the death of Leo DiCaprio - his demise meaning we can listen to Celine Dion sing "My Heart Will Go On".

A BABE IN PERIL - Is she, perchance, the SAME
BABE IN PERIL? It sure seems that way!
The textbook approach to natural disaster in the former catefory forces us to get to know a whack of dull, stereotypical characters all played by stars and almost always unrelated to each other save for the fact that many of them will die. Aftershock, however, happily focuses on a small group of protagonists who we stick with like flies to shit. This is a blessing, but also a curse since all of the characters, save for one, are pretty dull, stupid and/or reprehensible. Like the cliches of the aforementioned, here we wait with baited breath to see how each one of these losers will die. Eli Roth, the director of such torture porn hits as Hostel, is not only the male lead, but the producer and co-screenwriter os the film. It's a pretty good idea for a disaster thriller. There's something creepily plausible about a stranger in a strange land facing a major natural disaster that then becomes even more terrifying when a nearby prison is shaken to its foundations by an earthquake and releases huge swaths of bloodthirsty hardened criminals amidst the societal breakdown already occurring.

Babe in Peril
Helps 2 Dumb Guys
Unfortunately, Roth does himself a disservice by penning a character with few reasons for us to care and his performance in infused with a smugness that keeps us even more distant from him. Though the movie clumsily attempts to infuse his character with humanity by continually bringing up his little girl, it just renders him even more a knob since we're wondering why he's needed to come so far to score some poon-tang after his wife's left him. His Chilean buddies are also no prizes and the female characters are little more than bubbleheads on the prowl for drinks, drugs and dick. Luckily, the script gives us a very tough and appealing character in the form of a single Mom who has all the instincts of a den mother and lots of smarts. That the actress who plays her is the supremely talented Andrea Osvart, a mega-babe the camera loves to death, is the film's primary cherry atop the ice cream sundae.

Of course, there's something vaguely offensive about this babe with maternal instincts and no real need to get dinked like the other damsels in distress that places her in the stereotypical position of all those 70s slasher movies where the "virgin" survives being carved up by the psychopath killers. Here, since she requires no schwance up her quim and no dope down her gullet is a sure sign she doesn't need to be raped and will be spared this indignity. In spite of this, she IS a damn fine heroine and Osvart more than once makes us wonder why she's not a bigger star than she is.

Director Nicolás López is to be commended, however, for keeping the latter half of the film moving in a classical tradition and his handling of the action and suspense here is first rate and Antonio Quercia's cinematography is lively, colourful and sans the horrendous herky-jerky so many action movies are afflicted with. It's too bad the screenplay by Guillermo Amoedo, López and Roth is so aimless and moronic during the film's first half and can't seem to get out of the these-sinners-will-get-there's mentality. It almost ruins everything else it does right which include taut action direction, a great female lead and some really spectacular visual and makeup effects that almost never make use of CGI.

"Aftershock" is available on Blu-Ray from VVS Films. It's a great transfer and it does have a few extras - though frankly the two making-of pieces feel like glorified EPKs and the commentary track with Roth and López is meandering and rather inconsequential.