“Jews weren’t meant to suffer. We don’t handle it well.” This is probably the most amazing thing about Aftershock, a movie about a Chilean earthquake and the aftermath.
Aftershock is an Eli Roth film, which is really all you need to know about it. No, he didn’t direct it, but he wrote it and stars in it (and speaks the above line). In fact, and if you’ve seen Cabin Fever or the Hostel Movies, you know exactly what to expect.
The story concerns a group of revelers floating around Chile’s underground dance scene. About half-way into the movie (yep, half-way) there’s an earthquake, and a bunch of them die. The survivors then must escape the city without being crushed, shot, raped, stabbed or otherwise maimed.
Needless to say, they don’t make it. This is not a spoiler. While Aftershock might seem like a disaster movie, about five minutes after the earthquake scene, you realize it’s not (if you were naive enough to think it was in the first place). This is a slasher. Everyone’s gonna die, except maybe the last little Indian, probably a female, and probably a virgin (or at least not a slut).
Yeah, I even saw the “twist ending” coming about five minutes after the earthquake hit.
It may seem like I’m down on this horrible flick, but I’m not. It was exactly as I expected it to be. Can’t hardly complain about going into an Eli Roth flick and getting exactly what he delivers, every time, right?
So, if you’re not familiar with Roth’s work: He develops fairly decent characters, and you don’t generally want them to die (which is a common horror movie tactic: make the victims insufferable) even if there are some jerks among them (there always are). There’s gonna be plenty of T&A, often contrasted with really awful violence.
Although he’s no stranger to gore, awfulness is his specialty. Typically, one of his characters will suffer some horrible thing: loss of limb, maiming, or say torture or humiliation, but something which seems permanently disfiguring and scarring. Then, after the awfulness is fully soaked in, with feeble attempts by the other characters to mitigate, the character is fully killed off, often in an unrelated way. (Because, honestly, you can’t really do much with someone hobbling around with one foot and one eye.)
I’ve expounded on “torture porn” before and how I think it’s a term that can apply fairly accurately to parts of Hostel II, but in this movie, it’s less about enjoying the suffering of others as maybe (he says guardedly) exploiting it.
In other words, Roth’s characters are pretty well crafted, as noted. You don’t want them to die but at the same time, there’s a curious detachment. An almost mechanical sort of “Well, the characters have to die, so let’s do it in the worst way possible.” Sometimes there’s something revealing in the mechanism of their death, but usually not. And even when there is, the empathy for the victims is very shallow.
It’s a tough gig, really, which is probably why I don’t hate these movies. You want to create strong characters, but you have to make them suffer, but when you do make them suffer, if the audience invests too heavily, the movie stops being fun and becomes, well, horrible.
Which, as I said, is how Roth’s movies usually are. It’s not a value judgment. They’re very well made, smartly crafted horrible flicks.
You know if it’s the sort of thing you like before you walk in, and, really, you probably don’t.