Aftershock (2012)

Review first appeared in Sight & Sound, September 2013

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Synopsis: Valparaíso. Affluent Chileans Ariel and Pollo show off ‘the real Chile’ to international guests Gringo, Monica, Irina and Kylie, when a severe earthquake strikes, followed by aftershocks and rape-happy, murderous convicts escaped from the local prison – with a tsunami on its way too. No-one survives.

Review:  “You’re like a miner trapped in a giant vagina,” Pollo (Nicolás Martinez) tells Ariel (Ariel Levy), hoping to extricate his best friend from a disastrous relationship.

Pollo’s words are a crude mixed metaphor for a hybrid film. Certainly the first 30 or so minutes of Nicolás López’s Aftershock are concerned with the relationships and sexual mores of six characters shown drinking, partying and texting the nights away in scenes reminiscent of López’s coarse 2010 comedy Que pena tu vida (also starring Levy as a lovelorn Chilean). Yet Pollo’s crass allusion to the Copiapó mining accident, coupled with the film’s title and the presence (as producer, co-writer and star) of Hostel director Eli Roth, hints at the seismic chaos and sleazy genre elements to come, when these two Chilean locals and four international guests will see their broadly carefree lives suddenly crushed (not to mention shot, burnt, raped and axed) by acts of both God and man.

If the routines that follow (avoid the aftershocks! evade the rape-minded prison escapees!) marry disaster tropes to sadistic cat and mouse, a bizarre climactic sequence suggests a psychological undercurrent to all this on-screen catastrophe. For, after her anguish over a past abortion has been clearly established, final girl Monica (Andrea Osvárt) finds herself trapped in ‘uterine’ underground tunnels alongside mummified baby corpses. Confronted with her own trauma in an unexpected realisation of Pollo’s figurative language, Monica delivers herself through the cave’s vulval entrance – although a final image lets genre have the last wave.

Anton Bitel