I'm guessing you've never seen that HBSC "Your Point of View" campaign. You know, the one where images of, say, tattoos and henna, swap headlines like "Trendy" and "Traditional"? It's rather brilliant, reminding us that culture, preference and personal experience has an ability to challenge stereotypes. Not even a modicum of that nuance has made it way into Aftershock. Everyone you've given a tattoo is instantly - and lethally - labeled "Slut" or "Rapist". But that's just the beginning of the cliches in an earthquake movie that sure has a hard time shaking things up.
It begins with the characters - or should I say caricatures. Set in Chile, we have "Gringo" (Eli Roth), a white American traveler who doesn't speak Spanish. Then there's "Pollo" (Nicolas Martinez), which is Spanish for "chicken", so naturally he spends most of his time running around scared with his head - actually, hand - cut off. There's also Irina (Natasha Yarovenko) a Russian model who simply has to look the part, Ariel (Ariel Levy) a fat, loud-mouth womanizer who fit the bill so well they didn't bother to change the actor's name, a good girl short-haired sister (Andrea Osvart), bad girl long-haired sister (Lorenza Izzo), and a laundry list of others like "Firefighter", "Priest" and "Grumpy Operator" - each of which is given a rather significant moment in the film. Significant, of course, in that predetermined one-dimensional sort of way.
Even Selena Gomez a gives a completely useless "special appearance" in the film, playing a stuck-up snob in a club credited as "V.I.P. Girl". Another ground breaking character choice, I know.
So after meandering between wine tasting tours and dance clubs, the story finally finds a pulse when the earthquake hits. We know this is happening because the camera shakes a whole lot and people run around waving their arms in the air. The set pieces start falling and crushing people, sometimes to both shocking and hilarious effect. Initially, I was teased into thinking the film may be taking these cues from the Final Destination series (a personal favorite), but instead it strangely side-steps into a simple horror story about running away from escaped prisoners with nothing but rape on the mind. Identified, of course, by simply having tattoos.
The film is not without its fun surprises, namely the ability to discard its characters with the same carelessness they were thought up. And being made with a measly budget of $2 million, I'm more inclined to applaud some of the camera tricks than I am to point out the obvious cheats. But at the end of the day, this is a movie that will barely register on the Richter scale of disaster films.
P.S. On the plus side, this film made me appreciate that Australian tsunami-plus-killer-shark B-movie Bait even more. Go watch that instead.