Afflicted might just be the freshest take on both vampires and found footage to come out this year. There’s nothing particularly smart or meaty about its concept but the execution (ignoring a few minor bumps) is near flawless – rather impressive considering the fact that this is the writer/director/stars’ (Derek Lee and Clif Prowse) first foray into the feature film format.
Afflicted sets itself up as a series of shot-for-the-internet travelogues that follow Derek (Derek Lee) and Clif (Clif Prowse) as they go out to accrue a variety of unique global experiences after Derek is diagnosed with an incurable and fatal disease that could trigger at any moment. While in France, an incident leaves Derek seriously injured, and over the subsequent weeks he begins to transform into a subhuman creature.
The film takes a welcome turn about half-way through which keeps the concept fresh, and was enough to maintain my interest for the rest of the film. Afflicted is not going to be for everyone, and the final third doesn’t play out without a hokey moment or two, but overall it’s a welcome addition into the over-saturated found footage and vampire sub-genres that manages to maintain steam and (for the most part) also pulls off its concept, largely because Afflicted manages to account for the surfacing of its material in a way that doesn’t require much suspension of disbelief (which is much more than can be said for the majority of found footage films hitting the shelves these days).
This is another entry into the run of mumblecore-influenced features we’ve seen coming out over the past few years; although while sometimes obviously scripted, a fair portion of the dialogue feels improvised. Our cast also looks like real, average people – there are no amateur Brad Pitt doppelgängers to be seen here – which adds a level of believability to the travelogue aesthetic that permeates the film, although maybe what makes Afflicted so great is that Lee and Prowse actively demonstrate their love for the filmic medium throughout. Whether it’s the constant playful movement through different modes of filmmaking, or the inclusion of fantastic amateur footage which they shot as teenagers in the film’s opening minutes, or Afflicted‘s early emphasis on grotesque, non-CGI enhanced practical effects and extensive use of camera tricks – not to say there’s no CGI in the film, just that not every effects shot is achieved by those means – it’s clear that Lee and Prowse have always been interested in the cinematic medium and constantly question what exactly constitutes a film.
If Afflicted had come out 5-10 years ago it would have been revolutionary, the perfect vampire flick made on the cheap with new and emergent technologies. Unfortunately that time has past and a lot of what’s here retreads old ground. It’s a shame because although the film’s pretty great, personal bias and an over-saturation of vampire films prevent me from enjoying it further. The pacing is mostly on point but I felt it lost a little steam towards the end. Perhaps this should have been released as an episodic web-series rather than a film, it could really have people questioning the role of new media on the web (although the financial return on investment would have obviously been quite lower). Regardless, if the concept interests you, give it a go. I eagerly await Lee and Prowse’s next project, as they have the potential to put together something quite special.