Aftershock (2012)
Directed by Nicolás López

Starring Andrea Osvárt Ariel Levy Eli Roth

Borrowing many of the themes of "Hostel" parts 1 and 2, but with a less likeable cast that includes Roth himself in the leading role, the film should appeal to fans' of Roth's original "young travelers in peril" horror franchise. While "Hostel" 1 and 2 were both great survival horror gems, "Aftershock" is very, very good. While not directed by Roth, it was written by him and you can see his fingerprints all over the production.

Very much like "Hostel," the film opens with an American traveler -- in this case played by Roth -- partying down in a foreign country looking to get laid. Roth plays a recently divorced attorney and now-single Dad. Instead of doting on his daughter in the U.S., he is cavorting around Chile with a pair of local guides looking for the best parties to get a hookup. The group befriends a trio of girls and go off partying together. Like "Hostel" not much happens during the first half beyond the good times.

Then, an earthquake hits, and the films veers into a kind of Irwin Allen splatter movie, before the real horror starts. As law and order break down in Chile, rape and murder become the norm. Suddenly the American and his new friends are fighting for their survival in a city that has literally gone to hell.

What makes "Aftershock" inferior to the two "Hostel" films is its first half. The actors that Roth and director Nicolás López just aren't that likeable or fun to watch. Like the Americans in "Hostel", they have moral flaws that implies they deserve what's coming to them. But it's hard to relate to them and it's jarring to see Roth in the film. It's hard not to think he landed this role because -- well, because he made the movie. It's not like he's casting himself because he's the best man for the acting job. Clint Eastwood can cast himself in a movie and get away with it because ... well, he's Clint Eastwood. Most people aren't in the cinema to watch something Eastwood directed but to watch Eastwood himself. When Roth casts himself, it diminishes the movie. It's hard not to notice Eli Roth there. Roth is not a bad actor but he's not a leading man. Never will be.

Roth's self-casting is the greatest flaw with "Aftershock." But, even with this horrible flaw, the movie ultimately triumphs.

As the film progresses, we get a taste of the much of the depth Roth delivered in his first three movies. Roth seems to be someone with little to no faith in humankind and the horrors he shows in his movies reflects this. His characters start out his stories believing they can trust other people and by the end of the stories, they learn the hard truth: No one can be trusted, not even God. The only thing that you can trust in is your ability to annihilate all the people that want to call you.

A satisfying return to the "torture vacation" subgenre Roth pioneered, "Aftershock" deserved more than a video-on-demand release. Here's hoping Roth revisits the themes again in a movie he directs himself and doesn't take the leading role in.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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