There are myriad potent words that can and should describe Afflicted-eerie, unpredictable, horrific – before getting to a trio of loaded ones: vampiric, found-footage, and Canadian.
A subject matter that has fully saturated the big screen; a style that has found its way from horror to drama to comedy in (almost?) every conceivable way; and an adjective that usually is unfairly translated as something low budget at best and mediocre and insignificant at worse.
Clif Prowse and Derek Lee’s captivating release, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, avoid the pitfalls of all three boxes, creating something effective, refreshing, and most importantly, scary.
Yes, it’s found footage – but this actually makes sense. Two best buds, Clif and Derek (played by Clif and Derek respectively), are set to backpack the world, documenting and vlogging their idealistic and curious exploits every step of the way. It’s a legit reason, and because it’s 2014, they’ve got some quality gear and convenient ways to set it up.
A night of partying and one very bad decision though leads Derek to take home the wrong woman. When his friends show up later that night to surprise him and ruin the special moment between two drunken young lovers, they instead find an unconscious Derek, bloodied and badly beaten.
We all know what happened to Derek, but it takes the pair a while to ascribe a name to this, well, affliction. In fact, the v-word doesn’t pop up until later in the movie, at the last possible moment, and even then it doesn’t mean much.
It’s because Derek is transforming in ways both exciting and disturbing: he finds some super-human strength and agility, but also gets instantly sick around food and sunlight. It’s less about what he is (or rather, what he will become) and rightly more about his slow transformation and eventual realization.
It’s one that involves uncomfortable attempts to satisfy a new found craving for blood, a penchant for climbing walls, and deadly run-ins with police officers and doctors. Both Clif and Derek continue to roll, but both are very quickly in danger.
Cleverly shot and teeming with incredible effects that defy you to accept the film was in fact shot on an incredibly low-budget around Western Europe, Afflicted is a bloody, exhilarating thriller that may not reinvent any genres, but expertly avoids the pitfalls to tell a stripped-down, creepy tale.