Aftershock: Toronto Review

Eli Roth steps in front of the camera in this fun but by-the-numbers horror romp.

Eli Roth stars in Nicolas Lopez's Chilean disaster movie.

TORONTO -- Splat pack ringleader Eli Roth takes his gory roadshow south in Aftershock, a lively but formulaic Chile-set chiller where a group of tourists finds themselves bloodied, bludgeoned and buried beneath a horrific earthquake. With Roth playing one of the leads and handing off directorial duties to Nicolas Lopez (Santos), the film tends to feel shoddier than the first two Hostel movies, even if the team draws laughs from the sight of spoiled hipsters getting their comeuppance in the Third World.

Given how the torture-porn genre has been waning, credited writers Roth, Lopez and Guillermo Amodeo bring down the ketchup count considerably here, and Aftershock is less of an all-out bloodbath than a throwback to hokey horror and disaster flicks from the '70s and '80s. As such, it should play best as an ancillary item, with theatrical stints in markets where Roth still has some street cred.

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Taking many of its ingredients from the Hostel recipe, the film kicks off with a goofy American tourist known simply as Gringo (Roth) trying to enjoy the last days of his Chilean vacation with acquaintances-cum-tour guides Pollo (Nicolas Martinez) and Ariel (Ariel Levy). As expected, the trio are much less interested in local history than in bagging Latinas, and they hop from bar to bar as Gringo -- who we learn is a recently separated dad -- strikes out with one chick after another (including Selena Gomez in a brief cameo).

Eventually the gang bumps shoulders with American stepsisters Monica (Andrea Osvart) and Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), along with their Russian galfriend Irina (Natasha Yarovenko), and they all head to the seaside town of Valpraiso for some more binge drinking. But just when Aftershock is starting to feel like one long Spanish-language spring break video, disaster strikes in a crowded nightclub, leaving the group stuck between collapsing ceilings, severed limbs and all-out urban anarchy.

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Strictly abiding by horror film scripture, the characters get knocked off more or less in the order of transgressions committed, beginning with Ariel, who spent the first act annoyingly texting his ex and justifiably gets his hand chopped off. The rest of the bunch seeks salvation in the chaotic city, but their obnoxious attitudes (“Those are really cool favelas! I want one for my backyard,” Kylie says earlier on) no longer hold sway in a place where it’s every hombre for himself.

As the center of attention for much of the time, Roth has a rather awkward screen presence, but it’s at least partially justified by his character, who’s just a nice guy looking for some local kicks. The fate the filmmakers reserve for him is one of the few genuine surprises in a movie that tends to stick to formula, offering up minimal scares amid scattered moments of gross-out bliss.

Made for a purported budget of $10 million, the production has more of a schlocky, Corman-esque quality to it, although DP Antonio Quercia does make decent use of the multiple Chilean locations. The omnipresent score by Manuel Riveiro is standard B-movie chow.

Production companies: Vertebra Films, Sobras

Cast: Eli Roth, Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy

Director: Nicolas Lopez

Screenwriters: Nicolas Lopez, Guillermo Amodeo, Eli Roth

Producer: Eli Roth

Directors of photography: Antonio Quercia

Production designers: Nelson Daniel

Costume designer: Eliza Hormazabal

Music: Manuel Riveiro

Editor: Diego Macho Gomez

Sales: CAA (U.S.), FilmNation Entertainment (outside U.S.)

No rating, 89 minutes