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Exclusive: Nicolas López on his Chilean Disaster Flick, Aftershock

Nicolas López’s Aftershock isn’t a horror movie as much as it’s a disaster movie filled with the kinds of horrors that take place in a real natural disaster – in this case the horrifying 6.2 aftershock that hit Chile in the summer of 2010 that prompted Lopez and Hostel creator Eli Roth to collaborate on a movie that explores horror from a very real place.

It follows as group of individuals, two connected locals and four tourists traveling through the Santiago, Chile travel and party scene, going from cemeteries to big dance parties and seeing the beautiful city. One of the tourists, an American simply referred to as “Gringo” is played by Roth himself, a divorcee on the look to meet women and having three beautiful choices in Andrea Osvárt, Lorenza Izzo and Natasha Yarovenko. Leading the band is Nicolás Martínez’s Pollo, a local player who means well but tends to get them into trouble every way of the turn. And then the earthquake hits.

The movie premiered and played well at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and in fact, it was at that festival that we sat down with Lopez just a day after our interview with Eli to talk about the movie. Lopez is a fun and jovial individual just turning 30, who probably developed that personality going back to his days hosting MTV shows in Chile and directing snarky black comedies that have done big business in Latin America. Aftershock is his attempt at breaking into mainstream American horror, and going by the reactions from Toronto and other festivals there’s a good chance he’ll at least make a mark with fans of B-genre films.


ShockTillYouDrop.com: I spoke to Eli yesterday and when he was talking about the movie, he was talking about events of the earthquake like this could have been a big dramatic true story movie rather than a genre flick. Nicolas
Lopez:
Yeah, it would’ve been an Oscar movie, you know, but we didn’t want to do that.

Shock: Obviously you experienced the earthquake first-hand, so why did you want to make a popcorn movie out of that experience, which must’ve been horrifying?
Lopez:
It was horrifying, but it was really hardcore. It happened the last weekend of summer, so everybody was drunk, it was—the earthquake struck at 3:34 am, so everybody was at a party…

Shock: Obviously, some people must’ve been sleeping.
Lopez: Well, I was shooting a movie and it was the first day of shooting, so I was trying to sleep, and suddenly the earth starts moving and I was like, “Okay, whatever.” There were many tremors that summer, and all like little warnings. Then, it starts getting more hardcore, hardcore, hardcore, and suddenly, I literally saw my Nintendo Wii flying across the room. I was like, “Oh my God, this is f*cking real.” So I went to the first floor, I opened the door, and from where I live in my apartment, you can see the whole skyline of Santiago. Suddenly, the city was shaking like this. (motions his hands violently) Suddenly, all the sky turned white. There were explosions, so suddenly, whoosh. So it was like a little nuclear holocaust. That was really impressive. I was watching this and I was like, “Okay, so maybe I could die or maybe I could do a movie on this.” The first thing that’s happening in my mind was like, “This looks like a disaster movie.” We were talking with Eli about doing something together for a long time, and we were in the middle of pitching ideas. We had some ideas for a horror sci-fi movie or a haunted house movie. We were talking about that and suddenly the earthquake happened and I was like, “You know what? We have to make a movie about that.” When I discovered that “réplica” in Spanish is an aftershock. I was like, “‘Aftershock,” that’s a really cool name, you know, especially if it’s like, after the shock.” So, that’s from where I came from.

Shock: You’ve been doing romantic comedies for a long time.
Lopez: Well, yeah, very dark romantic comedies. I just finished the trilogy of romantic comedies that they started with “Que pena tu vida,” that translates as “F*ck My Life.” So I did “Fuck My Life,” then “Fuck My Wedding,” and now I’m finishing the trilogy with “Fuck My Family.” They’re very dark romantic comedies, in a way, and the two of them have been released have been hits in Chile and Latin America. When I showed Eli the first trailer of the first one, of “F*ck My Life,” he was really impressed of the look of the movie, and I told him that we made the movie with a shoestring budget that we shot the movie in 11 days that we shot with a Canon 7D. It was the first movie in the world that was done with that camera at that time.

Shock: Oh wow. Now everyone uses those.
Lopez:
Yeah, now everybody. So Eli, we started talking about “Let’s make a movie like that, but we’ll make a horror movie.” Then, I’m a huge fan of horror films, and we have been talking about that for a long time with Eli. I know Eli watched my first movie, “Promedio Rojo,” that I directed when I was 20 years old so he was a huge fan of that movie, and we always talked about doing something together. It finally was like, the right time, the right moment, and all the pieces got together like really fast. We shot the movie in January…

Shock: This past January? Wow.
Lopez:
This January, yeah.

Shock: Obviously it’s a disaster movie and there’s a lot of stuff involved with creating those scenes. He mentioned there’s a lot more practical, but you can’t destroy some of the practical locations more than they already were. How did you go about doing that stuff and I you had to use some CG I assume?
Lopez:
Well, the movie has very few CG, like most of the effects were practical because we wanted to make a movie like a disaster movie from the ‘70s where you don’t really see things getting destroyed, and our eye is so used to seeing things getting destroyed using CGI that there is a moment where you don’t believe it, or you believe it, but you watch “Transformers,” it’s like CGI porn, you know? We didn’t need that. Let’s do everything real. That was the big backing when we were making the movie, like let’s make a movie where everything that happens, happens for real. Like the club that we destroy in the movie, that club actually got destroyed for real during the earthquake. So we looked at all the footage from the security cams, and we did a reenactment of everything that happened, and we shot that with five cameras at the same time. We had things falling and extras and people shouting and it was crazy. So most of the effects that you are seeing in the movie that were done, we had only one take.

Shock: I was really impressed by the production values because you really have these huge parties at dance clubs, and then the last one they go to just gets totaled. I can see you can probably just go to real dance clubs and shoot there for fairly little money but you can’t go in there and just destroy the place.
Lopez:
Well, that was the thing, you know?

Shock: So you set the whole thing up just for the movie and then destroy it all?
Lopez:
Yeah. No, we shot it in real locations. Most of the movie is shot in real locations. There is almost no studios. The only thing that we shot at real studios was the ending in the tunnels, but everything else was shot on a real location.

Shock: What about the lift which kind of plays a key role in one of the scenes.
Lopez:
Yeah, I mean, that’s real, and then when it falls down, we rebuilt it and we crashed it. We actually crashed part of it in a location, so it was very cool because it’s not like when you shoot a movie and then you have to wait eight months to see how the production goes. Like we were watching everything there. Eli left the country a month ago after we wrapped the movie and there was a first cut where you had 80 percent of all the visual effects.

Shock: How did Eli end up getting such a key role in the movie? Who threw it out there that Eli was going to play Gringo?
Lopez:
Well, it started as a joke because when we had the idea of making this movie, Eli was like, “You know what? I’m going to go to Chile, and let’s spend a week together and we’re going to start writing.” I went with Eli to many parties and everybody was like, “Oh, so Nicolas is with this gringo, this gringo, this gringo.” We were like, “You’re so like the Gringo. You know what? Our character needs to be called Gringo and he has to be a gringo and he has to be that version of a gringo, a guy that the first time that he’s traveling and is recently divorced, so he’s trying to figure out how this new world works. He’s out of touch with the ladies, especially, so it came from that.

Shock: It’s being compared to “Hostel” not just because of Eli but also because it involves travellers who end up getting into a tough situation and you do spend a lot of time introducing and establishing the characters so you start to really like them.
Lopez:
Oh thanks.

Shock: Usually when you have a horror movie, you have to have some characters you don’t like.
Lopez:
Yeah, to kill them, yeah.

Shock: It’s actually kind of upsetting when some of your characters start getting killed off.
Lopez:
Well, that was the idea. The idea for me was let’s make a romantic comedy that is suddenly interrupted by an earthquake. In a way, we always talked with Eli about the Hitchcock movie, “The Birds.” Hitchcock says that movie talks about the randomness of life. Suddenly, you’re watching this movie and suddenly some birds appear and everything goes to hell. In a way, it’s our homage to that. Every time that I go see a horror movie or a thriller, I’m always bored because I don’t know, they spend eight minutes developing the characters like, “Oh, he’s the good guy, he’s the bad guy, and then everything explodes. You’re so used to explosions or the big spectacle that you get so desensitized that you’re like “Whatever.” There is no 3D, no CGI effect that is going to impress you. For me, I get impressed when somebody that I do care about dies. That was the big thing for us, like let’s make a movie where we—and actually, because the movie wasn’t funded by a studio and we had our freedom. If this was a studio movie, everybody would be, “You know what? The earthquake needs to happen in the minute 15.” Here it was we had all the film in the world, and that was because of Eli, you know? That was great.

Shock: I heard you talk about Selena Gomez earlier.
Lopez:
Yeah.

Shock: I actually saw her the next day because I did a junket for her other movie.
Lopez:
Yeah, “Spring Breakers.”

Shock: No, I did “Hotel Transylvania.”
Lopez:
Ah, “Hotel Transylvania.”

Shock: Has she seen the movie yet? She hadn’t seen the movie when I talked to her.
Lopez:
No, no, she hasn’t, she hasn’t. Almost everybody’s going to—most of our—yeah, Eli hasn’t seen the movie projected on a big screen.

Shock: Oh wow, okay. There you go.
Lopez:
So tonight’s the big night.

Shock: I heard this story that Selena Gomez was basically just in town and you knew her and she just happened to come by?
Lopez:
It’s crazy. It’s like, we were shooting and Eli knew her and she was a big fan of “Hostel,” and suddenly she was doing a concert in Santiago and we were like, “Why don’t you come by to the set and you get to hang with us, you know?” She came, and she had a good time. Then, we were like, “You know what? Selena has to be in the movie.” So we wrote a little part for her, and we were shooting the VIP scene that happens in the movie. We had that set for two days, so she came on the first day, and on the second day she was shooting. She did the concert and she came right from the concert to the stage and it was awesome, especially because we did everything in like one take. She was perfect, and her comic timing is perfect. I was like, “You know what? We should make a comedy.”

Shock: Would it be impossible to make a movie like this if you hadn’t already made these other movies in Chile? It seems like you have a lot of pull with people down there from the other stuff you’ve done.
Lopez:
Yeah, totally, yeah. That’s why we shot it there, because having making movies that they look like the American movies, but that they are done in a very guerilla way, and that’s my idea, is I want to make mainstream movies that they look like mainstream movies, but we didn’t need all the bullsh*t that surrounds mainstream movies, you know? I didn’t need 14 trailers. You didn’t need $15 million to make a romantic comedy. That’s why I have been shooting nonstop, like in the last three years, I have directed four movies, a whole trilogy. Like my plan when I was 15 years old was always that I wanted to have a trilogy, and my first American movie before I turned 30. So I’m 29 now, so I think that if everything goes well, I ended up releasing these two movies, the plan is going to work.

Shock: So what do you want to do next? What do you want to do after 30 now?
Lopez:
Well, now we’re obsessed with creating what we call “Chilewood,” and basically we want to start shooting movies in Chile and shooting them for the world. So now we’re shooting “The Green Inferno,” and that’s Eli’s next movie as a director. I’m one of the producers of the movie. We’re excited about that, and we’ll start shooting now, like in mid-October. So yeah, it has been crazy. Like this year, I shot “Aftershock” in January. We wrapped at the beginning of March. Then, I shot the third part of the “F*ck My Life” series, “F*ck My Family,” during June. Now, we’re shooting “The Green Inferno” this October.

Shock: I have to check out those “F*ck My Life” movies. Just the title alone. Lopez: You need to watch it, yeah. They are very funny. Well, you can download them they’re everywhere.

Aftershock opens on Friday, May 10 in select cities.


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