My aversion to found-footage features started long ago; bored to death and frustrated by the camera logistics of most, only to find entertainment in a rare few like [REC]. With all the positive press that Derek Lee’s and Clif Prowse’s feature debut Afflicted received, I figured it was worth giving it a shot (even if the critics long ago betrayed me with Chronicle). As it turns out, there’s room for improvement, but I’ve got to admit: it ain’t half bad.
In fact, it’s actually pretty smart from the get-go, establishing its premise in a way that allows for all sorts of editing. Basically: it’s a film about two buds (directors Lee and Prowse) who decide to go on this life-changing adventure and record it as a web series called “Ends of the Earth.” Turns out Derek’s got a cerebral arteriovenous malformation that could cause his death at any moment, but he decides to give this trip a go anyway. In these first moments, you genuinely get a sense that these actors-writers-directors know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to mocking the privileged folk who actually do take these worldwide trips for fans and YouTube hits. It’s the kind of thing that helps Afflicted stand out; that certain sense of contempt for a group of people that spirals into interesting characterization.
It’d be impossible to discuss the positives and negatives of Afflicted without diving into some minor plot spoilers for the film, which the trailers smartly don’t reveal but you’ll quickly discover when the happy-go-lucky first act fades away and shit starts getting real. On one of their nights out in France, Derek meets a good-lookin’ gal, but it turns out that whatever happened during their alone-time in the bedroom resulted in him catching a nasty virus. Turns out that virus allows him to experience the following: burning skin in the sunlight, great sight in the darkness, regenerative skills, a taste for blood. If you can’t tell what I’m getting at, turn back now. If you can, or you’ve seen the film, it’s pretty obvious: vampires.
All of the marketing for the film will have you believe this is simply a found-footage tale that relies on a virus, as per usual. To involve vampirism was a rather smart, and surprising, move, regardless of how blatant the signs for it were when they began to show up. As predictable as the vampire narrative (which I won’t reveal any of) gets though, Lee and Prowse offer just enough action and insanity to keep most people happen. Most of the heavy lifting falls on Lee’s hands when it comes to the acting; often covered in some gruesome make-up and hopping/running around from place to place. Plenty is attributable to solid special effects work, but the movement of the camera mostly falls under what one would expect from their typical found-footage film. With the cameras strapped down to the actors though, there’s a lot less shaking than one might expect. If anything, the fact that the audience goes in armed for the format with the knowledge that the choppy editing and cuts can be excused by the inclusion of the web series makes it all the better.
Those who step into Afflicted can be thankful that its concept alone allows it to escape many of the trappings that come with your average found-footage flick. Its occasionally boring, predictable story doesn’t matter quite as much when there’s actually a good reason for the film to be shot and edited as though it was being uploaded to the web. It’s no masterwork of the subgenre by any means, but it’s serviceable for those looking for a horror flick with pals, and sometimes, that’s just enough.
Afflicted is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and for rental and purchase on Amazon Instant Video.
Directed by Derek Lee and Clif Prowse; written by Derek Lee and Clif Prowse; starring Derek Lee, Clif Prowse and Baya Rehaz; 85 minutes.