“All Eli, All the Time!” – + bonus review of Eli Roth’s Netflix original series, Hemlock Grove
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If Irwin Allen had directed a script mash-up between Hostel and The Impossible, Aftershock just might be the result.
Gore icon and obligatory “Splat Pack” horror movie maven Eli Roth hasn’t been in the director’s chair for five years, but he’s been plenty busy writing, producing and acting. And in fact, he does all three of the latter in the latest death ‘n disaster fright fest to hit the big screen, Aftershock.
He plays Gringo, a vacationing American sampling the Chilean dance bar scene with buddies Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez). Gringo’s the nerdy divorced dad, while Ariel is pining over the cheating girlfriend he left behind, and player Pollo is always looking for the next score. When the trio hooks up with three sizzling chiquitas in an even hotter nightclub — Kylie, Irina and Monica (Lorenza Izzo, Natasha Yarovenko and Andrea Osvart) — the adventures begin. And then the earthquake hits.
People are hideously maimed (first and foremost, this is a horror movie and is soaked in Roth’s trademark shockers ranging from beheading to roasting, from rape to body-bisection), but the six survivors make it out of the wreckage only to find the city a smoking hulk of rubble besieged not only by nature’s fury but by escaped convicts, hair-trigger citizens, and the generally desperate and dying. They limp the gauntlet as the action unfolds, and one by one each suffers worse than the last.
Falling into an earthquake-induced chasm somewhere between Roland Emmerich’s 2012, Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, and a random episode of Prison Break, my main bone about Aftershock is its inability to find tone. Basically, it is too lightweight to support some of the heavy moments it expects the audience to invest in as the story unfolds. I would have liked it better had it been a bit cartoony and over-the-top ala Carpenter classics (Assault of Precinct 13, Escape From New York), but I have to say: it’s a lot better than I expected and I do recommend it to fans who’ve been thirsty for Roth’s brand of blood.
Netflix has shared with me a sneak peak at its original series (exec produced by Roth) Hemlock Grove. I hope they don’t regret it. Trying to be a cool combo between Twin Peaks, Teen Wolf, and Meadowlands, I found the beautiful-looking, but ultimately empty, supernatural series a big-time bore. (In all fairness, I was unable to view the pilot episode and so had to try and hit the ground running beginning with episode 2.) I like the cast quite a bit (especially Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, and Lili Taylor), but all in all this is a show mostly starring, and aimed at, tweens, set in a high school. I’d be willing to give it another shot to see how it unfolds, but early promise is practically nil.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson