Directed by Nicolás López
The trick to the most effective horror movies is creating characters that are sympathetic (like Wolf Creek), or at least recognizable (like Cloverfield), so that the inevitable terror unleashed upon them carries emotional weight. But the people who inhabit this disaster movie are recognizable only as cliches—the bitch, the slut, the rich jerk, the Jewish lawyer, the dude obsessed with his ex—and their attempts at charm are more grating than endearing. These types tromp through Chile, mostly drinking and doing drugs at nightclubs and concerts, the parties and inebriation wearing on their relationships. As the movie reaches an emotionally climactic Act I finale, full of shouting and flailing hands, the discord is made manifest in the earth itself: tectonic plates shift and the nightclub collapses on itself, crushing several characters, behanding another, and submerging the rest into post-calamity chaos and panic.
It's in this disaster that director López briefly finds his wit: the physical comedy of the man trying to find his severed hand only to lose it later to a stray dog; the woman who peeks her head out from a manhole and loses it to a passing car. (The movie costars, and was cowritten by, Splat Brat Eli Roth.) But López soon loses it again, this time in the escalation of violence, in how natural violence facilitates human violence: against a blaring tsunami alarm, the characters must figure out how to reach higher ground while navigating the looting and riots in their path. And then the prison collapses, the inmates loosed, and because everyone in jail is inherently evil, hellbent on torturing, raping and murdering anyone they see, the characters then have to deal with that. A lot of people kill a lot of other people; many main characters die, and those who survive them weep. The pettiness of old disagreements evaporates in the face of present danger, but I don't care, because these people were always as ugly and cruel on the inside as the world now is on the outside.
Opens May 10