Directed by Derek Lee and Clif Prowse
So many independent filmmakers seek to bring something new to horror, especially within the found footage subgenre, but all too often these films fail to exercise a modicum of common sense when constructing their story. This has resulted in a stale sub-genre that many are just sick of. Clif Prowse and Derek Lee’s multiple camera thriller Afflicted manages to cast off these negative associations, albeit with a few caveats.
The film follows Clif and Derek (writer/directors Prowse and Lee), two friends who set off on a year-long jaunt around the world with the intention of documenting the entire trip. As a documentarian and filmmaker, this is Clif’s gift to Derek, who would rather not sit around and wait to die in the wake of an arteriovenous malformation diagnosis, a vascular anomaly that could result in serious medical problems. Despite the doctor’s advice and the complaints of his family, Derek heads to Barcelona with Clif and reconnoiter with a couple of friends before heading over to Paris.
Here an attempted one-night stand with a woman named Audrey results in Clif and his two friends discovering Derek unconscious and bleeding in his hotel room, a few chunks of skin missing from his arm. Quickly thereafter Derek begins to succumb to a bizarre affliction that finds him developing super strength and speed, as well as a need for human blood.
Afflicted is the mutant offspring of a bizarre love triangle between Chronicle, The Revenant, and Daybreakers, cribbing elements of each and turning it into an engaging if slightly flawed little thriller. Although couched in a faux-doc format to give a reason for their continuous filming, the bulk of it worked thanks to the use of GoPros, cameras strapped to the chest, and just run of the mill recording of events from a handheld while traipsing around some of the most beautiful scenery the world has to offer. Complaining about the cause for filming is quickly becoming nothing more than an exercise in pedantry, and as with any found footage film, scaling it back a bit is necessary to get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of them.
If anything, Afflicted is the perfect film through which one can cast off the negativity associated with found footage and simply call it what it is: a unique and engaging way to present the narrative. It doesn’t need to be a found footage movie, but the perspectives Derek and Clif give to his physical changes and the subsequent mess they find themselves in allows for some incredibly effective and creepy horror filmmaking.
What also helps Afflicted stand out from the rest of its found footage brethren is the unmistakable and genuinely believable bond the two friends have. Even after the shift in perspective, the roots of their friendship remain strong, elevating the film beyond normal “run around and scream” fare. It’s something rarely seen in a found footage film, which is all too often populated with annoying characters with whom you can’t empathize.
Sadly, Afflicted is also an incomplete film. A false ending that would be deemed abrupt is teased before the film shifts to Derek’s perspective, who sets out to try and uncover the mystery of his affliction. It delves into the source of Derek’s affliction far too late in the film before coming to a close. The whole things feels like two long acts, rather than three. Despite being a relatively tight and never boring 85 minutes, Afflicted gives off an incomplete feeling that will leave you wanting a satisfying conclusion. Even so, a more traditional narrative approach might have allowed for this, but Prowse and Lee do enough interesting things with the “found footage” format (or whatever you choose to call it), to make Afflicted a worthy inclusion of the sub-genre.
3 1/2 out of 5