Ian Sandwell talks to Nicolás López and Eli Roth about the making of earthquake horror film Aftershock and their Chilewood concept.
“All the extras were covered in blood.”
Just your typical Eli Roth film then, except Aftershock (opening Aug 16 in the UK via StudioCanal) is co-written and directed by Chilean director Nicolás López, with Roth on producing, writing and starring duties instead of behind the camera. (Guillermo Amoedo also co-wrote the film.)
Having made his name in the comedy genre, Aftershock marks a departure for López yet not an unexpected one given the director’s love for horror. “For me, the thing about comedy and horror is that in both of the genres, you have an immediate reaction from the audience, so I was used to that,” notes López.
After becoming friends with Roth, the duo set about working together with the success of The Last Exorcism paving the way for Roth to get a film financed in his name.
“We were originally going to do a science fiction movie but he [López] started telling me about what happened in the 2010 earthquake,” recalls Roth. “It was so horrific and terrifying that we realised we didn’t need to create anything fantastic around it.”
But Aftershock isn’t a documentary. Described by López as a “fun, popcorn movie”, Aftershock centres on a group of tourists who, when a massive earthquake hits, start to realise that the earthquake could prove the least of their problems. “We wanted to make a movie that was more realistic in terms of what happened. It’s not like 2012, a movie that shows all the destruction; it’s more a movie that shows what happens to people inside that earthquake,” explains López.
Despite this, the film still features an impressive central sequence showcasing the impact of the earthquake on the club our protagonists find themselves in. Adding to its intensity was the decision of the duo to use practical effects, a decision not without its risks.
“When you’re doing things practically, it’s always very difficult and risky, and thank God nobody was hurt during the shoot, but it was a very difficult shoot. It was seven weeks of all night, covered in dust and fake blood and destroying things,” says Roth.
López adds: “The real earthquake happened at 3.34am and everyone was partying at the time so, in the movie, you have our characters in a club when all the mirrors start shaking and everything goes to hell. We wanted to show the real terror of that, and that’s why we decided to do everything practically.”
One of the discoveries of Aftershock is Lorenza Izzo who plays Kylie, one of the group looking to survive in the wake of the earthquake. Izzo’s first role was in López’s Que Pena Tu Boda (known also by its fruitier English title, Fuck My Wedding), and López says he knew she was a star “from the moment I saw her”, even if the director was surprised at her command of the English language.
“I didn’t know she could speak English so well, like meaning without my lousy accent,” jokes López. Roth agrees: “I started talking to her and I thought she was American. The other girl we wanted to cast was asking for more money and hanging out the deal, so we thought ‘screw it’ and cast Lorenza and she’s brilliant.”
Izzo went on to star in the pilot episode of Roth’s Netflix series Hemlock Grove and also plays the lead role in Roth’s next feature, The Green Inferno. It’s all part of what Roth and López are aiming to set up in Chile.
“We want to set up Chilewood as a concept,” states López. “Basically shooting movies in Chile for the world and more than just in Chile, physically using the same crew. It’s more about an attitude than shooting somewhere.”
Roth expands: “The thing that we’ve seen is that if Aftershock was shot in the US, we would have easily spent $20m and the movie would have looked the same. We’re slowly building our infrastructure now and with each movie, we’re troubleshooting what we’re doing and what we can change and add.
“The stuff we’ve done in The Green Inferno is spectacular, the most incredible plane crashes and huge budget stuff. That’s what Nicolás and Miguel Asensio [Aftershock producer] have pioneered down there. It’s an incredible system.”
The duo are certainly not making it easy for themselves though as following the difficulties of Aftershock’s physical shoot, The Green Inferno (about a group of student activists taken hostage in the jungle) brought its own challenges.
“It was five hours of travel every day to go to the set, it was so far up the Amazon,” recalls Roth. “We were filming in this village and you’re surrounded by tarantulas and getting bitten by spiders, ants and snakes. Looking back now, it was way more dangerous than we let on or thought it was going to be, but thank God, again, everybody survived.”
Yet there’s no sign of the duo slowing down despite the challenges of Aftershock and The Green Inferno. 2012 saw López make two films, Roth one film and a Hemlock Grove’s pilot, and 2013 will see them working on more projects, yet to be announced.
Roth is suitably ambitious. “We really want to build into something where five years from now, you have a whole studio built in a way where we can go there and make any kind of movie.”