Review: Afflicted (2013)I really need to do more research before I rent a movie. Just grabbing stuff off of the shelf has its own pleasures and surprises, but you also run the risk of having two "found footage" movies back-to-back. I am almost as tired of talking about found footage films as I am with seeing them, so you can imagine my near panic when I realized this was a first person, found footage type horror movie.
The film doesn't start out like you'd expect, and over ten minutes into it I was wondering if I had gotten the wrong film. Seemed like a typical vanilla indie road trip movie shot on someone's DSLR and GoPro. The plot that starts the movie has Derek Lee (Derek Lee), a man who has a life-threatening illness, and his filmmaker friend Clif Prowse (Clif Prowse), setting off on a live blogged, film documented, trip around the world. One of the goals of the trip is to get Derek down and dirty with a hot European woman, but when he does get Audrey (Baya Rehaz) in the sack, she reveals herself to be something other than a normal woman.
I don't want to spoil anything, because the way this film handles itself after the scenes with Audrey are what makes it worth watching. Something that Audrey does to Derek turns him slowly into something else. As the affliction has its way with Derek, he becomes less and less human and more dangerous to everyone, especially Clif. Afflicted uses the aforementioned vanilla opening to contrast and set-up to drive the film forward. Even when they figure out what is happening to Derek, the more terrifying question about what to do about carries the film into its second and third acts.
The performances never really convinced me that Derek and Clif the actors were anything but young filmmakers making a found footage film with their DSLRs and GoPros. This wasn't particularly meta, this was often annoying. Yeah, its cool you're making a movie about a not real you making a movie, but can we get on with the movie now? None of the performances are top notch, but they make the film work. Renaz clearly enjoys her part, but something in character is too reminiscent of any number of heroines in b-movie genre flicks. She even gets an action sequence in the end to show how much of an urban fantasy badass she is. Not terribly frightening or compelling, but its all fun and hits the marks it was aiming for.
This isn't a high-end horror movie by any stretch,and if the filmmakers are to be lauded, it should be for knowing how to create a pop horror flick with just enough bro-daciousness to interest the mainstream, but clever enough to get the respect from horror fans.
The special effects are in a similar tier. Most of them are above Syfy movie quality, but occasionally they slide back into low-budget cheese. As this is a found footage film, there is plenty of bad and careless camera work. Images go out of focus and lose their framing. Over exposure, under exposure and wildly swinging camera views form the visual language of this film.
Somewhere in the heart of this is a horror movie that gets most things right. Making Afflicted without the found footage conceit would be difficult and much less interesting. I suppose you could say Afflicted was good enough to make me forget how much I hate this recent film niche. What redeems it for me was that they used a tired form to reinvigorate an equally tired kind of creature. Unfortunately, the limits imposed by the filmmakers and the form they chose prevent the film from becoming a really exciting discovery. Still, it's two hours of low-budget film viewing time I didn't spend watching Sharknado. That's pretty good right there. I'll take a found-footage film over Sharknado any day of the week.