What’s it About?
Two best friends see their trip of a lifetime take a turn for the worst when one of them is stricken with a mysterious affliction.
7 out of 10
After being bit on the left arm by a mysterious French woman, world traveler and trip blogger, Derek Lee (Himself), begins to exhibit some strange behaviors and abilities that defy explanation. Derek’s lifelong best friend Clif Prowse (Himself), who is documenting the world wide trip they are on, grows very concerned and worried for Derek as he starts to rapidly change and appears to be evolving into a blood thirsty creature who starts to display vampiric tendencies. As they end up in Italy, where the middle majority of the movie takes place, Clif proceeds to record, with his complicated camera gear from different perspectives, how Derek is changing for the worst and putting not only himself but Clif and innocent people in mortal danger. What happens next in this POV found footage thriller is a pretty engaging and energetic story that is replete with cliches but still is a welcome shot in the arm for the tired and bloated subgenre.
Smartly using a video travel blog as a device to observe and scrutinize them, filmmakers Lee and Prowse start off the film with a going away party and while bypassing some accuracy (they utilize some questionable editing and documenting techniques), we get to know a bit about them both. They are true and old friends that have a long history and a shared passion for traveling and movie making. They also have always taken care of each other.
Even when Lee is diagnosed with AVM (a type of brain malady), Prowse vows to always take care of his friend and be by his side. This makes their trip ever more important. For the first half and the set up, Prowse and Lee show us their artistic natures and their compatibility. For this type of film, establishing that we care about the protagonists is important and Lee and Prowse succeed in doing just that which is greatly refreshing here.
“Afflicted” has an impressive and fascinating hook at it’s core and for most of it’s running time the movie has much in the way of chills and humor to satisfy jaded fans of the genre. Lee’s transformation sequences and Prowse’s struggle to help his friend is quite compelling and visceral. Prowse continues to document and even upload videos to the blog where we see shocked reactions from the followers get screen time. Where the movie loses it way a bit for me is when Prowse feels the need to have Lee perform for the camera to show off his new “powers” like leaping from building to building, climbing up walls, breaking huge rocks in half and running 60 miles an hour.
It felt too tacked on and more like a wink at “Chronicle.” Also, these are the more effects driven scenes and the mood and horror from the set up is pushed aside, somewhat. But some well placed testimonials by Lee and Derek balance these scenes and righten the ship. I do wish that the arguments and indecisions by the guys regarding the situation were more brief since it becomes a bit redundant, overall.
Lee and Prowse keep the movie moving, though, and never really allow it to lag and it is much to it’s benefit. Once they figure out that Lee needs human blood (because animal blood won’t do and he vomits up everything he ingests) the movie rockets off and they get back on track. Eventually, the authorities become aware of Lee’s bloody nocturnal activities and the movie becomes a chase film that winds up with Lee making his way back to France to find Audrey, who turned him into the creature he is now.
But not before there is some fun bloody mayhem on and off the POV screen. There are dizzying chases through alleys, between buildings, shoot outs, scuffles with policemen and so on. Lee and Prowse pack in all the goodies here and sometimes we even forget (and do not care about the logic) that all of this is being recorded by a cam strapped to Lee. The movie has fun with itself during these scenes and I chose to enjoy it for what it was.
Be be warned, though, the movie trips up again where it counts most and that is in the finale. It once again becomes the victim of familiar found footage tropes. Excessive shaking, uninteresting images, dark scenes and things and people flashing in and out of frame with cliched and uninteresting angles. When Lee reaches France and Audrey arrives it becomes a different animal and quite not as interesting as everything that came before it. The movie has style to be sure but it feels unfinished or incomplete, somehow.
Lee and Prowse definitely know how to shoot a film, for sure, using the beautiful French and Mediteranean locales to full benefit. Even the night time sequences have a moody and colorful bend. The movie is indeed ambitious and much to the credit of Lee and Prowse, they have some skill and have single-handedly reminded us how a film in this genre should work but not without falling into the trap that has made much lesser and uninspired efforts so forgettable.
“Afflicted” saves itself in places and is nifty and full of cool authenticity. The filmmakers are brave and sure of their abilities and the film does most assurdedly makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But as a found footage movie, in itself, it isn’t as original or captivating as it could have been. Perhaps as a straight horror flick, it could have worked better. But since these are new movie makers then this is the go to subgenre to make a quick and easy impression, with limited resources, for sure. And that is not a bad thing.
The movie has an escalating air of unease and terror and while Lee and Prowse learn to hone their narrative skills in future projects, “Afflicted” will remain an impressive piece of work that will stand out among more recent home runs like Barry Levinson’s “The Bay.” If you are a fan of FF movies then this movie is a no brainer. If don’t appreciate movies that up chaotic and shaky, you may want to look elsewhere. As for “Afflicted,” there is life in the old genre, yet! Oh, and expect a sequel, gang…