Two best friends see their trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when one of them is struck by a mysterious affliction. Now, in a foreign land, they race to uncover the source before it consumes him completely.
It’s no secret that I’m not what you might call an aficionado of films in the found footage genre. There have been a few decent enough ones since The Blair Witch Project debuted back in 1999, but only a few. I’m of the opinion that most people think they’re way to easy to make and it seems like there are at least five new ones clogging Redbox machines & your local cable network’s VOD channel each and every week. So I’m not gonna lie to you and say I was particularly excited to have to sit through the latest entry into the found footage canon – Afflicted. But every so often, the sun shines on a dog’s ass and I’m here to tell you that this one delivers the goods!
Written, directed & starring Clif Prowse and Derek Lee, Afflicted is the story of a pair of lifelong friends (Who just happen to be named Clif & Derek) and their decision to embark on a journey around the globe. Their plan is to document everywhere they go and everything they do on the internet for the world to see. They plan to take a year to do all this but when Derek gets diagnosed with a possibly fatal brain condition before they leave, it becomes even more imperative for the duo to get their adventure started.
So (against the wishes of Derek’s family), the globe hopping duo start their trek in Europe. Initially all seems to be going well for the guys, they meet up with a couple of friends and get to act like a couple of silly tourists for awhile. Of course, being two single men on the prowl in Europe means hooking up with attractive women and Derek manages to do just that, hooking up with a looker named Audrey (Baya Rehaz) in Paris. Shortly after Derek absconds with Audrey to a room for some privacy, Clif decides it would be a funny thing to bust into the room where the canoodling is taking place with his camera rolling but when he opens the bedroom door he finds Derek laying in bed, bleeding from wounds to his head & arm. Audrey is nowhere to be found. After refusing to go to the hospital to be looked at, Derek proclaims that he’s none the worse for wear and their journey continues. But something is very wrong with Derek, Audrey has left Derek with an affliction that’s changing him both mentally & physically. And the time left to find a cure for whatever is ailing him is growing short.
That’s about as much of the plot of Afflicted that I can share with you! This is the kind of film that’s way too easy to spoil since it’s main plot device isn’t particularly deep or even especially original. Trust me when I tell you that you’ve probably seen more than a few flicks with similar storylines to this one, but what makes this movie stand out so well is the manner in which both Prowse & Lee approach the material. By making this a found footage film they breathe new life into a hoary, well worn premise. And they do themselves a big favor by giving it the look and feel of another successful found footage film from a few years back, Chronicle (2012). As a matter of fact it’s kind of hard to believe that this film began shooting before Chronicle was even released, they look so similar to each other but that’s the story the producers are sticking with and I’ve no reason not to believe them.
What Afflicted does better than every found footage film I’ve ever seen is sell its story. Despite the more fantastic elements that come into play as the film progresses, it never once felt unbelievable to me. Both Prowse & Lee play extremely likable characters as well and since they’re literally in every frame of the film that’s a very good thing, it’s hard to root against either one of them. As Derek’s problems manifest themselves into something you could call “Super Powers“, the similarities to Chronicle become even more pronounced and thankfully the special effect work is really well done. There were actually a few instances during which I thought to myself “How did they pull that off?”, especially with what had to be a small budget. The film isn’t especially gory but when the blood does flow, it flows heavily. And it has a few really nasty, icky moments reminiscent of last year’s Contracted that’ll have you squirming in your seat.
What this film does is take elements of the aforementioned films and add in a few key components of its own to give it an identity of its own. Sadly those key components aren’t very original but don’t hold that against Afflicted, it looks great, sounds great, has two really good central performances in it and is really frightening in a few key moments to boot! There were moments where I jumped so high I nearly raised a lump on the top of my head from hitting my living room ceiling (It’s a GREAT film to watch in the dark. Trust me on that one). That’s something else Afflicted does better than just about every found footage film I’ve ever seen – it’s freaking scary!
Despite the stench of not being terribly original that lingers over it, Afflicted does everything else so damned well that I think it’s the best found footage I’ve ever seen. It’s just a great popcorn movie that breathes new life into the genre and I’m truly looking forward to what Prowse & Lee have up their sleeves next (It does leave itself open for a sequel at the end). I might be jumping the gun a bit when I say this but as of right now it’s one of the best horror films I’ve seen this year.
Afflicted in now available on bluray per Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Afflicted – 4.5 out of 5 shrouds.