For some reason Eli Roth doesn't seem to have a lot of love from horror fans. Maybe it's due to Hostel supposedly kickstarting the "torture porn" subgenre (ignoring the fact that Saw was already up to Part 3 by that point), but I have to confess I like both of Roth's Hostel movies. Putting to one side the issue of watching innocent people getting tortured and murdered for no good reason other than sick thrills, and whether that's morally any better or worse than watching horny young idiots queue up to get macheted in various Friday The 13ths and other slasher films, I like them as films: well made, well shot and scored. And Cabin Fever was okay, though perhaps not the gem it was made out to be. Or maybe it's due to his production duties on the underwhelming The Last Exorcism and its sequel, or his cameo appearances in films like Southland Tales (as "Man Who Gets Shot On Toilet", according to the IMDb) or the rubbish Piranha remake.
Now here's Aftershock, a botched disaster movie which Roth co-produced, co-wrote the script as well as taking the lead role. Ditching the gosh-wow spectacle you'd expect from the old Irwin Allen all-star calamity blockbuster genre almost entirely, it gives us a solid half an hour of three odious douchebags partying and failing to pull, before ending up with a hot chick each just in time for an earthquake to hit the town. Surrounded by looting and riots, and with a tsunami scheduled to follow, the best thing to do would be to aim for high ground. But the local prison has been destroyed and the escaped convicts are on their trail...
This is actually a good reason to not like Eli Roth: Aftershock's second half is basically concerned with a bunch of rapists looking for the three hot chicks so they can rape them. To some extent there is a precedent: in 1974's Earthquake frizzy-haired Victoria Principal is taken prisoner by obsessed psychopath Marjoe Gortner amidst the destruction, but (perhaps conscious of the limitations of the PG rating) it never descends to the gratuitous rape and murder excess of Aftershock. This change of tone turns an already bad film into an ugly one: a dull disaster movie full of unlikeable people suddenly becomes a nasty, mean-spirited little film in which one woman is murdered, one is raped and murdered and one is menaced in the catacombs by an axe-wielding maniac. If all they'd wanted to make was a ripoff of I Spit On Your Grave, why even bother with the earthquake? Charmless, ugly and tedious, and not even interesting technically, it's a thoroughly depressing watch. Here's hoping Roth's next, a revisitation of the cannibal genre, is an improvement.