After experiencing an 8.8 earthquake in Chile in 2010, director/writer Nicolás López couldn’t think of a more terrifying setting for his next film. In “Aftershock,” López teams up with director Eli Roth (“Hostel”) to follow a group of tourists who escape an underground nightclub in Chile after an earthquake hits only to find there is more mayhem waiting for them on the surface.
What are your earliest movie memories growing up in Chile?
I was raised watching “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future” and “Gremlins” and all those mainstream movies from the 80s. That was like my film school.
Was making an English-language film something you knew you wanted to do in your career?
Yeah, watching all those mainstream U.S. movies is what made me want to become a director. My goal was always to make a movie in English for the world. But I wanted to shoot that movie on my own terms. So, it was awesome I was able to shoot in Chile with my actors, crew, and production company and with the help of someone like Eli Roth.
Was Eli someone you had looked up to in the industry before you connected with him for this project?
I always loved Eli’s movies because he was doing what I was doing. He shot his movie independently and then sold them to studios to release them. That was very inspiring.
As a director, Eli is known in the industry for his gory horror films. Would you be OK if people started putting you in the same category or are you more than that?
I don’t care about labels. I just want to make movies that people are going to enjoy. I think people need a release and that’s why they like horror movies. In this case, the film is based on true events. We aren’t talking about the Boogeyman. We’re talking about an earthquake – something that could happen to anyone. In a way, I think that is a very different kind of horror movie. It’s a disaster movie with a twist.
What was going through your mind when that earthquake hit in 2010?
The earthquake happened during the last week of the summer at 3:40 a.m. I was at my house. I had to be up early the next day because I was shooting a movie. When the earthquake hit, I thought it was just a tremor at first, but then I saw my Nintendo Wii go flying across the room. I thought, “Oh, shit, this is real!” I opened my door and there were electrical explosions everywhere. The sky was white. At that moment I thought, “This would make a really good movie!”
Selena Gomez seems to be trying to shed her Disney reputation these days. She was in “Spring Breakers” earlier this year and now she makes a cameo in your movie. How did she get involved in “Aftershock?”
Well, for this movie particularly casting her was a happy accident. She met Eli two months before we started shooting the movie. She told Eli she was a big fan of “Hostel.” Suddenly, she was in Santiago with her band doing a show and Eli invited her to the set. So, we wrote a part for her and then that became longer than we thought. It was so funny and she was so good at it. We were all among friends and it was fun. That was the whole vibe of the movie.
As an outsider looking in, where do you think the American horror genre is these days? Some people say we’re running out of ideas because of all the remakes that are produced. What are your thoughts on the state of American horror films?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with remakes as long as they are good movies. You could say the same thing about romantic comedies. I think the new generation filmmaker are actually Spanish speaking like the director of “Mama” (Andres Muschietti) and the director of “Evil Dead” (Fede Alvarez). They both did an excellent job. They really care about the genre. I think that is a generation that has been inspired by Guillermo del Toro. Horror is something that is part of the Latin culture.