Tuesday, July 22, 2014

'Afflicted' (Movie Review)

Found-footage movies in a Red Box are like HPV on a college campus. They show up way more than you'd expect, and aren't very fun.

I took a chance reviewing Afflicted based on it winning some awards at a film festival I've never heard of and was too lazy to search for on Google. I went in with low expectations of paper thin plot devices and mediocre jump scares, but was pleasantly surprised to find a decent movie that, while somewhat flawed, managed to avoid most of the pitfalls we've all come to expect from the tired first person fright fests.

It's usually the kiss of death when a person or team decide they are "triple threats" and write, direct and star in their own movie. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse (the aforementioned threats) do an admirable job of being at the helm while simultaneously portraying the lead characters. The plot revolves around two buddies who plan a whirlwind tour of Europe, to be broadcast live over the internet. That last part felt contrived and exacerbated the "found-footage movie" cliche, only because it was completely unneeded other than as a gimmick to hang plot points on. The big conflict is that Derek has a life threatening illness that might become a life threatening risk at any moment on their journey.

Things start off in typical buddy picture fashion with shots of site locales, and them meeting up with friends. Then everything goes south after Derek is torn up by Audrey, the sexy French girl who takes a shine to him at a bar in Paris. After the attack, Clif documents Derek's increasingly strange behavior as he seems to gain super powers a la those kids from Chronicle. He also films some really disturbing side effects which finally lead them to the delayed discovery that Derek is a VAMPIRE. Surprise! Afflicted is a found-footage vampire movie! So now we're in the classic American Werewolf in London conundrum, except Clif is alive and has an internet audience he can voice his worries to thanks to the gimmick I mentioned in the last paragraph. This leads to a lot of "he's a monster, but also my best friend" monologues that attempt to artificially build tension. What doesn't work about it is that they both KNOW Derek is a vampire, and Derek blatantly tells him "No hospitals, run, I'll rip your arms off" in so many words. Eventually the inevitable happens and it's the point where Afflicted flies off the rails a bit.

The focus shifts to a remorseful Derek, who decides his only recourse is finding Audrey and a cure for the curse that has befallen him. He also arbitrarily decides to continue filming the journey because it's what Clif "would have wanted", and of course if he didn't the movie would be over.
This leads to some cool fight scenes with the police and some great cinematography "from the monster's perspective" culminating in a final confrontation with Audrey. This is where the movie should have ended, but it didn't.

At an already brief 85 minute running time, Afflicted should have concluded in a concise and direct way, but instead what we get is pretty much what you see on a certain Showtime series and/or some kind of superhero movie. It's almost like Lee and Prowse weren't satisfied with a morose finale or a 79 minute project.

Script problems aside, Affliction is still an admirable attempt to drain just a bit more lifeblood from a sub-genre that has been sucked dry. If you're in the mood for some shaky camera work and more of those digital effects pioneered by Gatorade commercials, give it a shot.

Grade: B-
Reviewed via Red Box. Running time 85 MIN. 

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