Aftershock is a horror movie with a unique and interesting plot: A disaster set within a disaster movie. Imagine a Hollywood disaster movie, with a smaller budget, mixed with the horror we've come to expect from Eli Roth (albeit toned down), and you've got Aftershock. However, the movie doesn't live up to that crazy premise.
The plot: Three friends (one of which is portrayed by Eli Roth) party in Chile. We spend the first half of the film meeting these guys, and learning about each of them. They meet a trio of women, and party with them throughout Chile too, both sightseeing and club hopping. While in an underground dance club in the city, an earthquake hits. Following that initial earthquake, we follow the survivors as they face many obstacles, including aftershocks from the initial blast, missing limbs, looters in the streets, loud storm sirens signalling an incoming tsunami, and freed prisoners who escaped when the initial earthquake opened up the prison. It sounds more complicated than it is, and the movie is pretty straight forward. The build-up to the disaster takes forever though, and we spend half of the film meeting the characters before the earthquake, when 20 minutes would have done the trick.
There isn't much to note in terms of acting, as no one stands out, but no one is annoying enough to warrant loads of complaints. Usually with a film like this, actors find themselves in the difficult position of not being able to act and reading a really terrible script. Not the case here, as it is just what it is. The tone and acting can be strange at times given the dire circumstances the characters find themselves in, but I did not find it to be enough to take me out of the film. Cameos by Selena Gomez (one of the 'it' actors/actresses of the moment) and RZA (Roth's buddy apparently) are thrown in for good measure as well. We will most likely catch Lorenza Izzo and Andrea Osvart in other films after this, since attractive women tend to be casting director bait for horror movies of any kind.
The movie mainly relies on practical effects and creepy atmosphere, thanks to director Nicolas Lopez. There are bits of CGI, but it is used few and far between. Now this usually works in favor of horror movies, especially ones today that rely too much on computers, however, a movie with the premise above and a horror name like Roth attached to it warrant a lot more creative use of special effects, as much of the horror is implied rather than shown. Implied violence does play into this movie's favor in parts, such as when one of the young ladies is assaulted by freed prisoners. It works in certain horror movies, but a movie like this needs some good "OH S***" moments throughout to warrant a good time in the theater for the viewing experience. Those moments do exist however: one of the main character's death scenes, is quite vivid, and fits with what I was talking about. But some are definitely better than others.
This brings me to the biggest problem of this movie... The trailer (in this case, the red band trailer) is supposed to hype you up for a film, and put you in the seat come theater time. And this trailer did just that, providing enough of those aforementioned "OH S***" moments. The problem then? THE TRAILER SHOWS ENTIRELY TOO MUCH. The biggest and best money shots of the film had been previously shown in the trailer, leaving nothing to be shocked by or nothing new to the imagination. I won't spoil if for those that will still watch, but if you are already hooked by the description, do not watch the trailer, and just go see this movie. You will appreciate it much more if you don't know what's going to happen.
Eli Roth has an interesting track record. I really want to like this guy, because his passion for horror and film in general is very infectious. This does not translate with an abundance of movies that he's written and directed (Hostel 1 and 2) or produced (Aftershock, The Man with the Iron Fists, Hemlock Grove) and it is beginning to wear thin on my interest for him in general. He does have spots where his horror genius shine through (the fake trailer, Thanksgiving, from Grindhouse, or his roles in Piranha 3D and Inglorious Basterds). If you are a fan of his, or unique horror in general, I'd still wearily recommend this to you. It has enough to keep thrill seekers and gore hounds pleased, as long as you steer clear from any more than you have to watch before seeing the film. Nicolas Lopez has talent, so maybe next time he will make something that provides more than this film does.