Since 1999’s The Blair Witch Project found footage films have increased in quantity if not always quality, and the fact that they can be made on the cheap, relatively speaking of course, this format will probably never die. The Paranormal Activity series has turned into a multi-million dollar franchise and even though each film has increased in budget but not with the same amount of return (The first one cost $15,000 US and made $193 million worldwide while the latest one Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones cost $5 million but only took in $91 million worldwide) so even with the law of diminishing returns they are still making a serious profit for a low investment. What really sets this type of movie making apart from your traditional studio films is that it’s that they are mostly being done by a small group of individuals who love what they’re doing, have no studio interference to worry about, and basically have no one to please but themselves.
This is certainly the case here with Afflicted a film written, directed and starring two friends Derek Lee and Clif Prowse who with $300,000 dollars managed to create a horror film with some dazzling action and gruesome effects that even puts some major Hollywood films to shame.
Two friends Derek (Derek Lee) and Clif (Clif Prowse) have longed to see the world but have put it off for various reasons, but now that Derek has been diagnosed with AVM, which is basically a tangled bunch of arteries in his brain that could rupture at any time, they decide to make the year long journey around the world and video blog the entire thing.
It’s while stopping over in Paris that their trip kind of goes off the rails. At club where a couple of their friends are playing a gig Derek meets Audrey (Baya Rehaz) a beautiful woman that he proceeds to chat up and then make-out with before eventually taking her back to his hotel room. Because his friends are dicks they plan to burst in on the two with operation “Cock-Block” but they are surprised to find Derek unconscious and bleeding and no sign of Audrey. Derek has no memory of what happened and refuses to go to the hospital. He just patches up the nasty cut on his arm, chalking the whole thing up to bad luck.
Derek and Clif proceed with their itinerary and arrive in sunny Italy but Derek seems the worse for wear and spends most his time in bed sleeping, this worries Clif greatly but Derek continues to insist on avoiding hospitals because he is afraid if he ever goes in one he will never be let out. Things start to get really strange as not only can Derek no longer hold down food but exposure to the sun badly burns him.
If by this point you have guess what Derek is afflicted with give yourself a cookie, but it’s not the mystery of the affliction that this film is about its how two long-time friends deal with it. At first it seems cool that Derek can punch through walls or karate chop a boulder in half, and leaping up the side of building has them wondering if superheroing is in his near future, but when his health starts to rapidly deteriorate Clif manages to convince his friend it’s time to go to the hospital. Sadly a confrontation with a couple of angry Italian motorists results in two crippled possibly dead Italians and footage of Derek licking their blood of his hand. They never make it to the hospital.
What follows is Clif doing his best to help his friend as he deteriorates to an almost feral state, documenting the whole thing because…well because this is a found footage movie and finding a reason for the main characters to keep filming as events spiral out of control has always been the hardest thing to justify. The two leads pay lip service to “reasons” but it has been done better in films like Chronicle and The Troll Hunter, here it’s not terrible just not all that convincing.
What works is the chemistry between the real life friends and the slowly increasing horror of their situation. The stunt work of Derek leaping across the piazza or running 60km an hour is fantastic as is the make-up for his ghastly transformation from nice guy to feral monster. This is a found footage film that I can highly recommend, and hey it’s a Canadian film so let’s give them a shout out.