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, even though each film has increased in budget without 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 they are mostly being done by a small group of individuals, those who love what they’re doing, with have no studio interference to worry about, and basically having 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 sequences, and some truly gruesome effects that even puts some major Hollywood films to shame.
These two friends, Derek (Derek Lee) and Clif (Clif Prowse), have longed to see the world, but they have put it off for various reasons, now that Derek has been diagnosed with AVM, which is 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, the one they’ve been dreaming about, 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, with no sign of Audrey. Derek has no memory of what happened and he refuses to go to the hospital. Derek just patches up the nasty cut on his arm and chalks the whole thing up to bad luck.
Derek and Clif proceed with their itinerary but when they arrive in sunny Italy Derek seems the worse for wear, he spends most his time in bed sleeping, which 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 guessed as to what Derek is afflicted with, give yourself a cookie, but it’s not the mystery of the affliction that this film central theme, its about 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 Derek deteriorates to an almost feral state, while 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 the “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, with the slowly increasing horror of their situation, and the stunt work of Derek leaping across the piazza, or running 60km an hour, is truly well executed, as is the special effect make-up work 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.
This is an excellent horror film and one of the better entries in the “found footage” category, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse clearly love the genre.