If truth be told, I am a bit of a fence-sitter when it comes to Eli Roth.

On the one hand, he’s given us the turgid, overhyped/overrated mess that was Hostel (or Euro porn with a bit of bloodshed as I called it).

But on the flipside, Roth also brought The Last Exorcism to the big screen which, the last ten minutes aside, proved to be one of the more effective shockers of recent years.

Aftershock just about works its way over onto the ‘good’ side of the fence thanks to a relentless last hour, some brutal effects and a nice air of uncertainty as to just who will/will not survive.

But it is still far from perfect, with issues over characterisation, pacing and shifts in tone which prove very awkward.

Roth acts as producer and star here, handing director duties over to Chilean helmer Nicolas Lopez.

The plot is very simple – a bunch of thrill-seekers trekking around Chile get caught up in the chaos after a huge earthquake reduces cities to rubble, with carnage, chaos in the streets and plenty of torn limbs the order of the day.

You would never guess that though from the opening 25 minutes or so, a series of party scenes and nightclub exchanges which has echoes of the opening sequences of the Hostel movies.

Roth plays Gringo, an American fish-out-of-water, struggling around the country in tow of two Chileans, Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez – who appears to be the South American version of Zach Galifiniakis).

But what saves this from the shagathon of the Hostel movies is that Roth happily plays up his geek credentials, and director Lopez ensures most of it is played simply for laughs.

That may seem like a strange move, but a quick watch of the extra features show that is just what Roth/Lopez were after – mixing Lopez’ comedy background with Roth’s love of the red stuff.

Andrea Osvart

Andrea Osvart

Anyways, before long a nightclub the group are in (they have now been joined by a bunch of attractive ladies played by Andrea Osvart, Lorenza Izzo and Natasha Yoravenko) gets torn apart by the huge quake (which sees one of the leads lose his left hand) and suddenly it is on to the streets and a desperate battle for survival.

That survival is hampered by the fact the local prison conveniently collapsed in the aftermath, adding further danger as a host of ruthless convicts roam the streets.

The carnage scenes are pretty impressive it must be said, with countless moments of limb-losing, some in-your-face gore and an overall air of palpable chaos.

That is all well and good, and the film is helped by nobody really standing out as the ‘lead’, allowing the film to take numerous twists and turns as characters you expect to survive don’t etc – although it must be said, that one twist late on just doesn’t work and will have you scratching your head.

But the big problem is the wild shifts in tone, which smack of Roth/Lopez trying to please everybody and ending up frustrating all.

I could live with the opening 25 minutes as a bit of characterisation is at least thrown on screen, but when you follow a brutal rape scene with a gore sight gag just moments later, you wonder just what mood the makers were aiming for.

Those quibbles aside, there is plenty to like in Aftershock – the effects are good, the chaos has a real air of realism and Roth turns in a self-mocking performance that proves welcome.

Among the female talent, Osvart stands out – proving a tough, resourceful lead that is both believable and highly watchable.

So there you have it – a better film than I expected, certainly nothing special but well worthy of a watch.

EXTRAS: Trailer, Director interview, Frightfest Glasgow Q & A

VERDICT: [rating=3]

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.