There are often times that I go into a movie with certain expectations, and am completely caught off-guard by what the film gives me. More often than not, that’s a negative thing; I wind up being disappointed and soured because I’d believed a film would be better than it was. However, there are those rare and priceless times that I go into a movie feeling like I already have it figured out, and find that I am very pleasantly mistaken…
Afflicted is (I know, I know “yet another”) addition to the found footage subgenre, written, directed by, and starring Derek Lee and Clif Prowse as themselves. Now, before you start pounding your smart phones into swords, hear me out; I believe this particular POV flick to be of those elusive ones I’ve mentioned before in other reviews…one of those that I really, really feel rises above the typical Paranormal Activity rip-off and brings something fresh to the table of horror films.
Derek and Cliff are two young professionals, about to take a year long trip around the world. Derek, it seems, has always loved to travel, and feels that thus far in his adult life, he’s racked up far too many boring hours behind a desk. He also reveals in the preamble to their big outing that he has an inoperable aneurysm that could kill him at any time, so this trip takes on a special meaning for him; it’s his big event, possibly his last hurrah. Clif is a longtime friend and technology nut, that kind that lives and breathes cameras, computers, and gadgets. For this huge expedition he’s taking with his pal, he’s pulled out all the stops to record it all for posterity and public viewing; not only is he planning to film the entire trip, but he’s doing regular live video blogs to keep a running chronicle for friends, family, and anyone else back home who’s interested. They start off in Barcelona, where they meet up with a couple of mutual friends that are rock musicians, and the four of them travel together from there to their second stop, Paris. Here, the attention turns to finding a woman for Derek to “relieve some stress” with. Partying at a nightclub, Clif (filming everything in nerdic glee) is run off by Derek, as he’s found a tall, dark, and very attractive young woman to spend some time with. Video captures the pair getting pretty hot and heavy, then Derek leaves with his new friend.
After his soirée, Derek has some strange problems; food makes him violently ill (we’re talking serious projectile vomiting), and he’s very lethargic; worst of all, he seems to be having some kind of seizures from time to time, leaving him incapacitated. Clif worries that he’s picked up some kind of illness, or worse still, aggravated his condition; he suggests visiting a doctor on several occasions. Worried it will end his trip prematurely, Derek refuses each and every time; he persists that he’s fine. As the trip moves forward, Derek’s symptoms become more and more bizarre, elevating Clif’s concern and both of their general unease…
For a low-budget flick a couple of pals decided to take a crack at after they’d made a few short films, this movie impressed me quite a bit. The story is an inspired take on illness, friendship, and the lengths that friends will go to…as well as a pretty unique look at…well, something I won’t mention. I will say that I came away with a smile on my face at some new thinking of old favorites that this movie left me with. The special effects were quite impressive (although true hounds may be disappointed; there is blood to be had, but the lion’s share of the brutality in the film is off-screen; reasonable, given the context), but the real treat here are the performances. These two guys are lifelong friends, and it really shows in the film; you have no doubt of who these people are or what they think of each other, and it’s all but impossible not to sympathize with them; you want Derek to have his trip, you worry alongside Clif. You laugh with them, you’re scared with them…and there’s some other pretty damned strong emotional responses you’ll have as events unfold. The consummate failing of found footage has always been the why; Why are you filming this? In this case, the reasons are made clear right out of the gate, and the bond you truly believe in between these two friends makes those reasons easy to swallow.
This movie was so not what I expected, that I’m purposefully being even more vague than I usually attempt to be (hell, even watching the trailer below will give you too much). If you’re planning on checking it out, I recommend that you go into it with as little foreknowledge as possible. It sucks that I can’t tell you more about it, but seriously, the less you know before you see it, the better. You guys will figure things out fairly quickly, but that discovery was part of the fun for me.
As always…if you just hate found footage out of the gate, then why bother? But I will say that I think you’re missing out if you skip it purely on a preconceived notion.
However, to each their own…I’ll never hold it against ya. =)
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