The found footage horror movie has come in for a lot of abuse lately, much of it deserved. With few exceptions, the trope of “here’s the footage we found with the mutilated bodies” has become a self-serving screen to mask deficiencies in production value, talent or imagination. “VHS 2” I’m looking in your direction.
But I have to admit I’m still a sucker for it. In the right hands, it re-invigorates some of the more tired refrains, and gives a visceral and energetic subjectivity that’s ideally suited to the horror genre.
Thankfully, “Afflicted” is in the right hands. Co-writers/directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse are also the stars of their feature debut, as an IT tech named Derek and a filmmaker named Clif. Motivated by Derek’s potentially fatal brain condition, they embark on an ambitious year-long world tour. We experience their journey through the footage they record and post online via Clif’s battery of mobile cameras. The trip quickly takes a startling turn after Derek spends an interrupted night with a mysterious Parisian beauty, and then begins exhibiting strange symptoms, including unusual strength, aversion to sunlight, and an appetite for an unusual beverage. No points for guessing what’s happened to him.
So really, the filmmakers are dealing with not one, but two possibly played out genres. Not a problem. There’s energy and imagination to spare here, and novel use of location shooting in Italy and Paris. Prowse and Lee are better behind the camera than in front of it, and some of the dialogue is clunky to say the least. But what “Afflicted” lacks in acting skill, it makes up for in brisk pace and a deftly executed series of build-up scenes leading to Lee meeting his maker (so to speak) in a Parisian basement.
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t a big deal that the action of “Afflicted” is relatively coherent. You’d think that was a given, feature motion picture made by professionals and all. But after suffering through so many examples of films that are just dizzying swaths of blurry WTF, I’m giving credit anyway for minimizing that down-side of handheld technique, and for the capable editing of Gregory Ng.
The best example of this is a complex, violent set-piece in and around a darkened apartment, with the transformed Lee taking on a squad of French police. There is also a well-staged stunt and chase sequence through the alleys of an Italian village. The make-up effects are handled creatively and supply a satisfyingly restrained amount of gore, with an especially unsettling scene involving contact lenses.
Admittedly, the script doesn’t do much better than most other found footage films in answering the Sally Spoiler question of “Why do they keep the cameras rolling when everything goes bat-shit crazy?” A couple of half-hearted excuses are doled out here, and then quickly, wisely, the film throws us headlong back into the stuff that we came for.
It’s really a pointless question, innit? At this juncture in the genre life-cycle, if you have to ask that question, your train is on a different track. There’s only one answer that really means anything. They keep the cameras rolling because the movie would be awfully short if they didn’t.
The Blu-ray of “Afflicted” is presented in 1080p High Definition, in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. By design, some of the footage is grimy and sparsely lit. There are options for subtitles in English, English SDH and Spanish. Access to a digital Ultraviolet copy is included with the Blu-ray disc.
The audio track is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The sound is rugged and spiky at times, but works within the context of the plot. There is a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track available, as well.
- two short but informative making-of featurettes, one behind the scenes and the other about the window jump stunt.
- A set of deleted scenes, including some alternate versions of dialogue heard in the finished film, and a nifty SFX shot.
It’s all about the energy, not the performances or dialogue. “Afflicted” is an inventive, vigorous genre outing, with a refreshing spin on the found footage trope.