Two horror flicks open this week after making the film-festival rounds, both more horrible than horrifying. Enter at your own risk.
Aftershock is the latest shlockfest from cult actor-director-producer-writer Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever), directed by Chilean horror icon Nicolás López. It features an assault of grotesque tortures, atrocities and slaughters of sexy Latino women set against the 8.8-magnitude Chilean earthquake in 2010. Mr. Roth plays an American tourist from San Diego on vacation in Chile, nicknamed “Gringo,” who joins two local dudes and three smoking babes for a wild all-night dance party on a picturesque mountain in the coastal town of Valparaiso. All he wants is to get drunk and ravaged, but before he can get laid, nature turns violent, trapping them all in a flaming disco, snapping the cable car to the mountaintop and destroying the town below. During the aftershocks, a severed hand slides across the dance floor, tripping up the sweaty bodies of people trying to escape. A woman opens a manhole to the street and a car drives over her head, crushing her skull like a melon. The six injured, panic-stricken partygoers run for their lives, land in the sewers and, one by one, meet a series of unspeakable deaths just as the walls of the local prison collapse and the inmates go on a murderous rampage. The actual Chilean earthquake killed 300 people and turned thousands more homeless, but this movie distills everything for comic effect. Everyone gets robbed, raped, impaled, mutilated, decapitated or burned alive. But that’s not all. Crawling through the blood-drenched debris, here comes the tsunami!
Sightseers is a morose, unsettling blend of pathology for sport and murder for laughs. Offbeat British director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) guides two creepy actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, through a quirky script they wrote for themselves as a pair of homicidal social misfits on a week’s holiday through England’s beautiful Lake District. Tina, a lonely, repressed introvert with a vicious, domineering mother, ignores the warnings and joins Chris, a would-be writer she hardly knows, in his claustrophobic caravan to escape from her dull life and help him research a book he’s planning. It soon becomes obvious that he’s into something more blood-curdling. In each campsite, something terrible happens. When Chris backs the trailer over a litterbug who drops an ice cream wrapper during a historic guided tour of the Tramway Museum of Crich, Tina scarcely feigns surprise. Next, she seems delighted when Chris kills an irritating neighbor in a caravan park and steals his dog. A hiker who complains when the dog soils a historic monument gets his head bashed in, and they snack on the supplies in his backpack.
Between the castles, abbeys and ruins of Yorkshire and Cumberland, a romantic holiday turns into a carefree murder spree, and Tina finds it an enthralling antidote to her dead-end life. After coming across a wedding party in a village inn, she even throws the bride off a cliff just to prove she’s a game sport herself. “I understand you,” she tells her traveling companion. “I get it. It’s about empowerment, isn’t it? It’s just expressing yourself and thinking outside the box. I’ve been in the box. I don’t want to go back in the box. I’d rather die.” Her turn might come, but not until the two unpredictable writer-actors (with the aid of Mr. Wheatley’s screenwriter wife, Amy Jump) make their point: even murder loses its allure without structure, organization and style.
Balancing improvisation with black comedy, Sightseers is Natural Born Killers viewed as a dark sitcom while Aftershock is merely lurid slice-and-dice junk put through a Cuisinart. Both films have twist endings in which only one cast member is still alive. No spoilers. It’s up to you to find out who the lone survivor is. This is not meant as a recommendation.
Written by Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López and Eli Roth
Directed by Nicolás López
Starring Eli Roth, Andrea Osvárt and Ariel Levy
Running Time: 90 mins.
Rating: 1/4 Stars
Written by Amy Jump, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring Alice Lowe, Steve Oram and Eileen Davies
Running Time: 88 mins.
Rating: 1/4 Stars