Directed by: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Written by: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse
Starring: Derek Lee, Clif Prowse, Baya Rehaz
Derek, the character, is diagnosed with a rare brain condition that could one day cause irreparable affects on him that, instead of taking life easy and waiting around to die, Derek and his best friend Clif plan a whirlwind, year long trip around the world. As a love letter to his friend, Clif, an aspiring filmmaker, decides document the whole trip and upload it to a Blog site.
In Paris, the trip goes awry when Derek takes a woman he met at a club back to their apartment where he is discovered passed out, and hurt. Worried that after a going to an emergency room the doctor might keep him from the rest of his trip, Derek chooses to patch himself up and carry on. When they arrive in a small town in Italy, Derek begins to show strange signs of infection that cannot be explained.
A tremendously gorgeous marriage of SPFX & VFX, Afflicted works hard to shed the shackles of the trail of bland found footage films that came before it. Borrowing heavily from Chronicle and American Werewolf in London (No, he is not a werewolf!), the film tries to carve itself out of the mold that so many of these films have done (some even well) before them.
What shines the brightest in Afflicted is the remarkable ability to make a tiny film feel like a big budget Summer Blockbuster. The directors revealed at the screening I was at that their crew was about seven people, getting away with a documentary style crew on a film that is essentially a documentary akin to Cannibal Holocaust.
Almost a third character is the locations: France, Vancouver, Italy, Spain, breathtaking backdrops to set upon with such horror. And even still heartbreaking, Afflicted’s story unfolds on cobblestone streets, in forbidding alleyways, and grand vistas of the Mediterranean.
The action is well constructed, and part-and-parcel with some well thought out, logical, and thoughtful placement of the many Canon Cameras and GoPros, the film never feels pre-planned. Although, of course, with the amount of VFX and so on, that a film of this design endeavours to deliver, it might have been forgiven, Lee & Prowse were not afraid to include camera frames that cut off entire actions, and even shoot directly into ceilings and walls. And in doing so, Afflicted leaves much more to the imagination, which is the last true tool of the master suspense filmmaker.
Funded through Telefilm Canada, and some US dough after the film was finished, the real treat of Afflicted is what they were able to do with 300K and change. Surely with the help of “On the Lot’s” Zach Lipovsky and Neill Blomkamp’s best buddies the VFX house Image Engine, you can expect only the best in VFX, and it truly delivers. The effects and spectacular, yet never lose their weight in the real world. Enough to make the most jaded Horror fan squirm, as well as show us some new tricks. But, in a film like this, what turned out to be the most surprising were the amounts of practical effects. A top of the hat to the filmmakers , for the breath of fresh air in seeing real walls broken amidst a film that so easily could have just slapped a few tracking markers up and fixed it in post.
It pains me to say this, but despite the mind-blowing effects, and the fun idea, Afflicted is not a very good film. The story is weak, and the characters all seem to do things that no one would ever do, only to propel the film along. With the depth of sickness that Derek succumbs to throughout the film one wonders if his best friend is really a friend at all when he repeatedly never calls a doctor. The writers do their best to explain away certain choices, and on paper they seem fair, but in practice they bring the viewer out of the story, because you are struck dumb at the audacity.
What is most well done, and quite interesting, is the strong first act. Well lit shots, and rehearsed talking heads reveal that Clif knows what he is doing, and one feels as if it is the start of a travel film. You meet the loved ones of our stars and instantly take a liking to them. Unfortunately, somewhere along the ride, and I cannot say exactly where, you stop caring for them. It could be when they begin to act like cardboard stereotypes instead of the humans we met earlier, but indeed you do lose interest in them and you are only sitting through the illogical decision-making to get to the next effect or action scene.
Die-hard Horror fans will instantly add at least three points to my score because of the gore, the action, and the horror elements that are definitely done well, but the film can’t stand up under its own weight. Afflicted is a great first effort by two writer/directors that only whets our appetites for what they will bring next.