Movie Review - Afflicted
Derek Lee and Clif Prowse's feature debut Afflicted is an ambitious piece of film making to say the least. And although I would consider it a good film, but something about the style of filming kept it from being great. The found footage style is becoming far too overused these days, and though there are many exceptions that still manage to elevate the style, it feels somewhat forced here. The writer / directors claim the Blair Witch Project to have been an influence, but to me this film borrows much more heavily from the 2012 film, Chronicle - in which a group of teens suddenly find themselves possessing super-powers after climbing down into a cave near their house - but with an interesting twist. In the end I commend Lee and Prowse on taking a risk, even though I wouldn't say the film ever reached it's full potential. All the same I would say it was definitely worth watching.
Derek and Clif play lifelong friends about to embark on a year long journey around the world. They plan on uploading their progress as an online travel journal that is live streaming much of the film. The poignancy of their lifelong friendship and their journey is made stronger when it is revealed that Derek has a rare neurological disorder called AVM, which could result in his death at any moment. The trip begins fairly uneventful, until one night when Derek picks up a woman at a bar and takes her back to his hotel room. When Clif and two of their other friends go to check on him, they find him beaten unconscious and bloodied in his hotel bed. When he finally regains consciousness, he refuses to seek medical treatment for his injuries, afraid that in his condition, doctors will not let him continue his trip. Over the next few days Clif starts to notice changes in his friend that can't be explained. He sleeps for days at a time, he can't eat, and his skin becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight. As the pair search for answers, Derek's condition worsens and Clif begins to worry that it is time to seek medical help. But along with fear for his friends health, he also becomes consumed with Derek's new found super human abilities, and begins to take extreme measures to try to help his friend, while Derek will stop at nothing to track down the woman who attacked him and find some answers.
I don't like to give away too much in the way of plot details because the movie does have some really nice surprises. The performances of the two main actors were solid from beginning to end, especially Derek when the sickness begins to set in. The two work well together, and their off screen friendship seems to make their onscreen friendship all the more palpable. Next, the makeup and practical effects departments did an superlative job of making Derek's transformation absolutely harrowing, and the gore disturbingly realistic. The decision to rely on good old-fashioned special effects versus digital alone increased the impact of the violence two-fold. I also found it to be a welcome surprise that the subject matter of the film was Vampirism as opposed to becoming yet another predictable virus or zombie film. Don't get me wrong, I love both of those styles, but I haven't seen the subject of Vampires covered in quite this way before and I was pleased with the decision in the end.
But this brings me to the one thing that didn't work, and that is the style of filming that makes up the first two thirds of the movie. Although this film is credited as found footage, it plays out much more like a corny show on the Travel Channel, complete with cutaways to maps with cartoon arrows pointing out their destinations and a ton of unnecessary split screen shots of them in action. This really took away from my enjoyment of the film early on, and by the time they drop all of the unimaginative travel-journal type tricks and get to the real found footage style, it seems completely out of place. I see why the directors opted to use the style, I just don't understand why they waited for more than half of the film to fully embrace it.
At the end of the day, I have extremely mixed feelings about Afflicted. On one hand it succeeded in creating an original and imaginative take on the subject of Vampirism and was well acted , on the other hand the cheese factor of the films early moments make for an uneven viewing experience. The film is available in select theaters and on iTunes and VOD, but you may want to wait until this one is available on Netflix. Cheers.
- Leo Francis