Sunday, 20 October 2013

Aftershock

Certificate 18


****

Written by ElI Roth, Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo
Drected by Nicolas Lopez


Eli Roth finds the weight of fallen masonry too much to bear in Aftershock


Aftershock,co-created by Eli Roth with Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo is a roller-coaster ride of a 1970s style disaster movie brought up to date to meet a modern adult audience's expectations. As with his two Hostel movies, Roth pitches us into a world that is as frighteningly believable as it's horror is monstrous.

The movie is a Chilean production, set in the resort town of Valparaiso. There is a 30 minute lead in before the action kicks off, which has writing that is not Roth's finest, seeing clever humour mixed with cliched corn. The title is a heavy hint that there's an earthquake brewing and sure enough, following possibly the cheesiest mother/daughter argument ever scripted, the earth moves.

The strength of this tale lies in its portrayal of the devastation of the 'quake and of the ghastly human choices and consequences that can arise from such bloody mayhem. The brutality and the gore is shocking, but in a real moment of mass bloody death and injury, what else would one expect? Years ago, Universal Studios gave us Genevieve Bujold and Charlton Heston enduring an earthquake hitting San Francisco and introducing the world to the (extremely short-lived) Sensurround, a low frequency noise that made our cinema seats resonate. Roth is more direct. In an earthquake and one suspects, in the aftermath of a bomb explosion too, horrible things happen to people. Victims are crushed, decapitated, lose limbs and are impaled. Aftershock's tracking of a weary band of survivors exposes them not only to these horrors, but also to the brutal inhumanity of man against man when the fabric of society literally collapses around them

A prison crumbles leading to a mass escape of marauding convicts. Roth's performance as an injured man tortured by the escapees into revealing where his women companions are and thus condemning them to rape, (filmed tastefully, no nudity) is a brilliant micro-study in the guilt of betrayal. Elsewhere vigilante mothers shoot good people, simply because they cannot know for sure if the good can be trusted. Safer to kill than to take risk.

The film-making is masterful, the sets are convincing, the CGI and special make-up effects are virtually flawless and if occasionally a devastated street has the air of a studio back-lot, the dialog and performances soon serve to ensure that disbelief remains suspended. Chilean actor Ariel Levy heads the cast and in a clever move that adds to the story's authenticity, Roth plays one of a handful of English-speaking gringos, with other key roles spoken in Spanish with English subtitles.

Whilst there is a whiff of predictability about the (magnificently photographed) ending and the story's opening chapters have minor flaws, the filling of this movie's sandwich is magnificent. It is classic horror, brutally and brilliantly filmed, made all the more shocking by its perceptive take on the worst of humanity in the worst of times. Albeit with a master by his side, Lopez has helmed the movie well.

Perhaps Roth could go on to consider turning his creative lens towards a Towering Inferno for the 21st century? Aftershock clearly shows that this wunderkind of horror truly has what it takes to set a scene alight.

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