Monday, 25 February 2013



It's only the beginning

 In 2004, Nicolás López directed his first feature film Promedio Rojo, a dark teen-comedy that Quentin Tarantino called “the funniest movie of the year.” Nine years later and having buddied up with horror auteur Eli Roth, the Chilean director looks to plant his roots in the horror genre with his first English-language film.

 A group of travellers in Chile are living a partying paradise, spending their nights hopping from one nightclub to another until sunrise. But when they become caught up in an earthquake, staying alive and keeping together in a rupture of rioting proves a testing task and a far cry from how they imagined their blissful vacation to end.

López’ fondness of the romantic-comedy genre is apparent in the initial thirty minutes of his latest feature (which world premiered at Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness.) It’s a peculiarly slow start, and watching a group of typical twenty-somethings (plus 40 year-old dad, Gringo) popping pills, downing shots and scoring (or embarrassingly not scoring) with girls is hilarious – but a bit wearisome. Especially when Selena Gomez pops up to turn down Roth. And especially when it lasts for forty minutes (nearly half of the movie’s running time). But the character development is complementary in interacting with the following events and you’ll be glad to have stuck with it. And hey, it’s a good sell of the director’s home land.
Roth steps back in front of the camera in a lead role for the first time since Inglourious Basterds as an American divorced dad, affectionately-named Gringo. He embraces life as the awkward guy who acts half his age but dresses like the father he is. Each character exploits their own qwerky habits and trivial problems, playing off one another to create a mix of good fun and light-hearted tension. But it’s Nicholas Martinez as Pollo who steals the stage with his garish humour and dominating screen presence.

 In former film adaptations of the same title, such as Xiaogang Feng's version of the Great Tangshan earthquake, the premise lies in the natural disaster - the pre-tsunami earthquake, or ‘aftershock’, in this instance. But the raving nightclub saturated in partying locals and tourists is literally churned up within five minutes of on-screen time. Surfacing from the collapsing building appears to be the easy part and it’s all over within quarter of an hour of partygoers being impaled by smashed bottles and speaker stands crushing them to death.

Erupting in chaos and frenzy, the group’s consequential battle is against a city in ruin and turmoil. As convicts escape from the local prison roam the streets like free men and locals become irrational with fear and bear an unfortunate distrust towards foreigners, the tsunami is almost momentarily forgotten. It’s rape, guns and hasty decisions that become the threatening reality. Co-written by Roth and López, this is where influences of the grittiness in cult-classics Hostel and Cabin Fever creep in.

López has described the film as a completed jigsaw of several people’s real life horror stories from Chile’s tsunamis. The final hour depicts these events in a relentless string of shocking tragedies, forming a rapid pace that never lets off. From chasing down amputated hands to finding aborted babies dumped in tunnels to watching someone being burnt alive, you wish more time had been devoted to this unrelenting rollercoaster ride than watching the group chugging cocktails.

The sequence of characters being killed off runs through the motions and their brief but touching moments of emotional despair sets it apart from the generic formula. If the last death sequence isn’t brutal enough, the ending must be a strong contender for the sweetest sour ending in the history of horror.

VERDICT: Aftershock suffers in a strained and slow beginning but is saved by a compelling sequence of unimaginable horrors in the latter half. Toying with horror, laughter and heartbreak, López’ succeeds in tapping into every emotion to create an above average earthquake survival flick.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Fancy a ‘horromantic’ Valentines?

If you want to avoid valentine clichés at all costs, or if you’re after something different from the run-of-the-mill romcoms and are fed up of seeing Cameron Diaz crying on your screen on the same night every February, here is a list of ‘alternative’ film choices to get you clinging on tightly to your loved one. If there’s anything these tell us, it’s that love can hurt.

Natural Born Killers (1994) 

Mickey and Malory Knox: one of the most celebrated, yet controversial, couples in the history of cinema. The wild and wacky lovers become partners in crime as they journey a psychopathic serial killing spree across Route 66… just for kicks. If it’s action, adrenalin and outright rowdiness that you want to spice up your valentines, NBK has got it covered. And if anyone asks, Mickey and Malory Knox did it, okay?

GET IT HERE: £4.50 Amazon, LOVEFiLM, Netflix.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

The clue is in the name. Return to the roots of the slasher genre and celebrate one of the first horror movies to rip the heart out of this hallmark holiday. A folk tale is reborn as the locals of small mining town Valentine Bluffs that celebrate Valentine’s Day are murdered in their numbers by a deranged, masked killer. It’s one thing to dislike the soppy sentiments but another to draw pick axes into people that do. If your date doesn’t want to feel out-dated, try the 2009 remake which brings the gory effects to 3D. “In this town on Valentines day, everybody loses their heart.”

GET IT HERE: £16.61 Amazon, Netflix

Sightseers (2012)
In four words, a rom-com gone wrong. If you’re in for a light-hearted evening but sick of all the formulaic boy-meets-girl scenarios, Sightseers can deliver. Can you remember the first holiday you and your partner went on? Was it a weekend away somewhere quite close to home? Did it involve accidentally kill someone at one of the tourist attractions? Chris and Tina’s romantic holiday in the Highlandstakes a turn for the criminally insane as murderous mischief replaces countryside cliff walks. Perhaps this ninety minutes of raunchy fun is more of a black comedy, but it’s a dark and devilish one all the same. Just don’t follow their example- it may be the last holiday you go on.


Valentine (2001)
You may not have seen it, but you’ll know the doll-mask that hides the face of the Valentine murderer. Four female friends all receive a vulgar Valentines card before they are hunted down and killed one by one by a boy they used to pick on in school. It doesn’t boast an awful lot more than a conventional slasher formula, but the end twist is worth the wait, and hey… it takes place on, what some would say, valentines ‘slay’.

GET IT HERE: £3 Amazon, Netflix

The Loved Ones (2010)
Boys, remember one thing: never say no to a girl. Because if you do, you may wake up strapped to a chair in her home, playing out her twisted prom fantasies. What Lola wants, Lola gets - and, with his foot bolted to the floor by a nail, there’s nothing Brent can do about it. This perversely playful, demented game is all about blood-stained party hats and teasing torture, making it one of the best date movies of the decade.

GET IT HERE: £4.99 Sainsburys, LOVEFiLM, Netflix


Warm Bodies (2013)
Ditch the DVD’s and hit the big screen for this year’s Valentine venture. Zomboy Nicholas Holt and teenage Teresa Palmer form a relationship after he rescues her from a mass zombie attack. It’s not often that a film falls in the comedy/horror/romance genre, and it’s even rarer to find one that’s executed well. If it’s as touching Steve Levine’s last film 50/50, this could well be the most sweet and sympathetic zombie film of all time.

GET IT HERE: Most UK cinemas

Lovers Lane (1999)

Be careful where you and your partner make out this year- it could become a crime scene if ‘hook’ spots you. A murderer who hooked couples as they kissed in the local lovers lane, bears attacks on the victims’ children 13 years later. A similar plot to its predecessors but rejoices in all the marmite clichés of the genre, and its multiple use of off-screen deaths is perfect for the pillow-in-front-of-eyes faint-hearted.

GET IT HERE: Shop around on e-bay!

The Prowler (or Rosemary’s Killer) (1981)
A true poet will often leave a red rose in the clutches of a woman’s hand after he drives a pitchfork into her and her lover. It’s 30 years after Rosemary was killed and the prowler returns for a second spree. If he wants you he’ll get you. With ground-breaking special effects by Tom Savini, including the famous knife-through-the-head killing sequence, this is a must-see for any time of year.

GET IT HERE: £7 Amazon, try Blockbuster.

Dracula (1992)

If it’s sophistication and true passion that defines your evening, this is a classic that indulges all meanings of infatuation, seduction, lust and lure. We are all familiar with Bram Stoker’s tale, and not many films have been able to visually compete with the powerful juxtaposition of the romance and horror embodied in Gary Oldman’s count Dracula.

GET IT HERE: £4.75 Amazon, Netflix, LOVEFiLM

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
I bet you never thought of this one. If you’re a one of those annoying couples that compete to recite the most quotes during a movie, this is the one for you. It may not be an obvious choice for that special day of the year, but you’ll be rooting for the Pegg/Frost bromance, and they will leave you rolling on the floor (…laughing!) If you’ve simply mastered its brilliance one too many times, try the recent release of horror com, Cockneys vs Zombies.