Like any of the corpses that litter its second half, Aftershock just lies there, inner workings splayed out and obvious for all to see. Starring, co-written, and produced by Eli Roth, the film is a reiteration of his “ugly American goes abroad to suffer untold horrors” shtick, and a briefly amusing but soon nerve-shredding variation on this template is the decision to make the American the least obnoxious of the various nationalities on display. This could be read as a swipe at globalization (“Ugly Americanism is infectious!”), but it’s probably overly optimistic to attribute even nominal depth to this lazy movie. Though directed by Nicolás López, the whole thing feels like Roth on autopilot.
The three-act structure is out of a schlock-manufacture textbook. Straight-edged yuppie Gringo (Roth) hooks up with his friends—spoiled man-child Pollo (Nicolás Martínez) and perennially unlucky Ariel (Ariel Levy)—on a trip to Chile, a low-rent Wolf Pack sniffing around for the usual heady mix of plentiful alcohol and casual sex. They pick up a trio of beautiful women—Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), Irina (Natasha Yarovenko), and Monica (Andrea Osvárt), sketchily delineated by way of ’80s-era slasher-movie archetypes—and decide to visit the city of Valparaiso for some dedicated clubbing. After half an hour of excruciating “character development” (i.e., accumulating evidence that they’re all unbearable), clunky foreshadowing, and awkward flirting, a devastating earthquake hits the city. Cue second-act dismemberments-via-inanimate-object and a further escalation of drama in the final third, courtesy of a gang of escaped prisoners with less than honorable intentions.
It goes almost without saying that it’s difficult to care about the fates of these abrasive cardboard cutouts. Some forced instances of bravery and selflessness prove too little, too late in terms of making them sympathetic. There’s plenty of gore, but none of it is particularly inventive, nor does it engender any visceral or emotional reactions beyond jaded disgust. A few tense moments are mined from a cat-and-mouse sequence between some of the more twisted convicts and the vacationers, but even these are undermined by the indiscriminate use of one of horror’s cheapest, laziest, most over-used devices: the threat of sexual assault. Aftershock is neither excessive enough to please hardcore Hostel fans nor subversive enough for those who enjoyed Cabin Fever. All it does is go through the motions all the way to its tired gag of an ending, failing to leave a single lasting impression in between the mutilations and murders.