The ubiquitous name of Eli Roth adorns the top of this film’s title with a ‘presented by’ credit. The director has managed to carve out a lucrative career producing a number of low-budget genre works, some of which have made a sizeable dent at the box office. Aftershock (2012), a collaboration with Chilean filmmaker Nicolás López, attempts to put an intriguing disaster movie spin on the kind of gore-heavy exploitation fare synonymous with its co-creator, yet it ultimately fails miserably. In a set-up surprisingly similar to the first Hostel outing, three horny travellers (including Roth) are making their way around Chile.
The group’s journey brings them into contact with a trio of pleasure-seeking girls, whom they bond and sample the culture with together. All is going well it seems until one fateful night as they frequent yet another club and are caught up in a devastating earthquake. Aftershock starts off like an anodyne travelogue (complete with a completely superfluous and distracting cameo from teen star Selena Gomez – last seen in Spring Breakers), all of which feels like filler until the makers pull the old genre twist by introducing the deadly tremor into the story. The aftermath of the destruction caused is impressively staged on what is obviously a limited budget, and there are a handful of fun shocks to be had early on.
A sense of lawlessness and a prison escape push things into even more dangerous (and potentially interesting) territory, but pretty soon the film descends into an ugly mess, cranking up the destruction porn to almost unintentional parody. López and Roth fail to make their characters neither interesting nor particularly likeable (despite adding that hoary old cliché of introducing family members outside of the narrative) and the film becomes a tedious guessing game of who will next meet their unpleasant demise. Everything here, sadly, has been seen countless times before.
You know almost immediately who’ll be the sole survivor, and the Aftershock’s misfire of an ending couldn’t be any more hilariously signposted if it tried. Even the spilling of blood and viscera fails to engage, becoming increasingly repugnant and unpleasant (Roth’s own films, however questionable they may be, at least manage to deliver some imaginative splatter). Roth himself gives arguably the best performance here, but if he insists on building up his own mini-horror empire, he needs to bring some quality control, as this tired and uninspired schlocker simply won’t cut it.