Just when you think a cinematic genre gimmick is all worn out and not worth mentioning ever again, along comes something like Afflicted to totally mess up your misgivings. No, this otherwise above-average horror flick won’t find favor with most non-fright types, especially since it uses the by now passé found footage trope to try and enliven their attempted terror. Sure, filmmakers Derek Lee and Clif Prowse find some creepy ways to make us forget we are watching the umpteenth take on the tired Blair Witch Project approach, but in this case, the means almost deconstruct the ends. We are still stuck in a redundant post-modern experience where a noted movie monster — in this case, the vampire — is given an attempted makeover. Fortunately, the fix-up mostly works.
Two travel bloggers — Lee and Prowse playing highly fictionalized versions of themselves — decide to take a year off and see the world. The latter is a documentarian and feels compelled to film everything, especially since the former has been diagnosed with a disability that could cause him to have an aneurysm at any time. One night, a random French female named Audrey (Baya Rehaz) ends up bedding and then injuring Derek. With his buddy refusing to go to the hospital (since they might discover his pre-existing malady and require him to return stateside), Clif has some obvious concerns. They grow even deeper when he sees his friend is not only surviving the attack, but getting better, and then surprisingly stronger and more… well, let’s just say that Derek develops some strange skills, as well as a growing aversion to sunlight.
If Josh Trank’s Chronicle was a creature feature instead of a superhero/villain origin film, it might look something like Afflicted. While not as fully realized and rational as that interesting take on the comic book epic, this movie at least offers up something inherently intriguing within the often illogical filmmaking strategy. As many a wary audience member knows, people who constantly carry around cameras, no matter the original reason, don’t act like normal individuals once the monster attacks (Cloverfield) or the zombies arrive (Diary of the Dead). Unlike Chronicle, or even better, the last three installments of the brilliant V/H/S/2, Derek and Clif just “decide” that everyone will buy the documentary/illness angle and be done with it. Luckily, there is more here than the ever-present “why don’t they stop filming?” query.
Still, Afflicted is a decent indie fear fest which succeeds much more than it fails. On one hand, the filmmakers have a clear vision, a clever (at least, in their minds) way of showing it, and a follow-through that leads to some genuinely horrifying moments. On the other hand, that POV ploy, meant to immerse us in the action, often takes us out of the movie completely. Fortunately, Lee and Prowse are smart enough to fill the void with an intriguing idea, effectively executed. This makes the found footage failures of Afflicted all the more tolerable.