Afflicted can be easily dismissed as simply being a more supernatural-than-superhero take on the found footage origin story that Chronicle attempted, but it’s still a fun and innovative low budget bit of meta-horror. Through some clever misdirection, smart writing, and savvy filmmaking, directors/stars/writers Clif Prowse and Derek Lee rise above the low standard set by most “found footage” films to deliver on the promise of making a good film that’s unencumbered by an overused gimmick.
The directors more or less play themselves, as Clif follows his buddy Derek on a year long trip around the world starting in Europe. Already going against doctor’s orders thanks to a brain aneurism that could burst and kill him if he suffers any head trauma, Derek begins to get sick after a hook up in Paris goes terribly wrong. The two friends quickly abandon the douchy City-TV styled travelogue they set out to make, and Clif pleads with online viewers to talk some sense into Derek, who refuses to end the trip for anything, believing it might be the last chance he ever has to see the world.
It’s a hard film to talk about without spoiling its greatest twist, which starts to get hinted at just before the halfway point of the film. It’s a twist that requires a bit of a leap of faith and a less cynical mind about the state of modern horror to go along with it, but it works. Lee and Prowse also up the ante with a second midpoint twist that heighten the film’s stakes even more than whatever is making Derek suffer so painfully on this trip.
Prowse and Lee are working with an impressive skill set stylistically with some ambitiously shot action sequences in the latter going. These kinds of “sourced” horror films never look as good as Afflicted does, and it’s a bigger accomplishment that the duo behind the camera are able to mind just as many big scares from quiet dread as they can large scale action set pieces. They also thankfully do it all without resorting to jump scares every few seconds. It wants to be a silly, unpretentious thriller, but it also never treats the audience like fools.
It takes liberally from a lot of other movies, but it takes the cribbed notions in novel directions once the clichés are established. As it goes on, it becomes apparent that Prowse and Lee are more influenced by unnerving body horror films and classic monster movies of the 40s and 50s than they are anything from the past twenty years. Despite falling back on one of the more lamentable and overused filmmaking styles of the past 20 years, Afflicted has a decidedly delightful old school approach to storytelling that carries it through to the conclusion nicely. It’s further proof that “found footage” should be left to those like Lee and Prowse who actually care enough to do something worthwhile with the concept rather than to just make a flick on the cheap.