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In ‘Aftershock,’ horror takes obvious turns

Andrea Osvart stars in a scene from “Aftershock.”
Andrea Osvart stars in a scene from “Aftershock.”
Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune

Young tourists party their way across Chile, hitting the clubs, hunting for a little “Third World” experience.

“Like, COOL Third World,” one explains. “You know. Like Bali.”

They chatter on their cellphones, hit on drunken hotties and sprinkle Yiddish into their pickup lines. Which don’t work on the likes of, oh, Selena Gomez.

But wait, the inept Jewish flirt they all call “the Gringo”? That’s Eli (“Hostel”) Roth. Then there’s that hint of “Turistas” menace to the out-of-control situations that the rich punk Pollo (Nicolas Martinez) gets them into. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a dead ringer for Zach (“The Hangover”) Galifianakis, the LAST guy you’d want as your tour guide. Maybe it’s the way they say “dead bodies” instead of “cheese” when posing for photos.

Or maybe that title – “Aftershock” – tells you this won’t be that different from everything else Eli Roth has had a hand in. Sure, it’s all drinks and skirt-chasing fun. But sooner or later, the blood will flow. Count on it.

“Aftershock,” which Roth co-wrote, is a sometimes grimly entertaining disaster/horror thriller about being in the wrong part of the world with the wrong life and language skills when disaster happens. It starts with a light and funny first act – hear Chilean miner sex analogies, see the Gringo strike out with every woman he meets (Gomez among them). See the wild sister Kylie (Lorenza Izzo) try to escape the protective clutches of her Hungarian sibling (Andrea Osvart). See Ariel (Ariel Levy) beg his not-answering-phone-messages girlfriend to take him back.

And watch Pollo do his best Latino Zach as he throws his money and his weight around in search of “the best party in Chile.”

That would be in Valparaiso. Where the earthquake hits.

“Aftershock” then becomes a catalog of most every unpleasant way of dying you can imagine – crushed to death, impaled to death, immolated, shot, raped, tortured. Six shallow party animals are forced to make life-or-death decisions while still buzzed from drinking and while still in their club wear in a city none of them know.

The foreshadowing in the script is cute and obvious, and you can see or make a good guess at what third-act “surprises” are in store. But the depiction of their trek through the bowels of a city that’s been reduced to hellish ruin is spot-on, with shaky hand-held cameras capturing the quake and aftershocks, the suspenseful attempts at saving this person or that one and the chases that come when the walls of the local prison tumble and anarchy sets in.

As genre mash-ups go, “Aftershock” is a bit of an overreach. Perhaps worrying over sustaining suspense and ratcheting up the tension should have taken precedence over the many obvious plot twists. But it works well enough. It’s just a shame what it’ll do for Valparaiso tourism. The place looks lovely until the Earth starts shaking.

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