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I am very much over found-footage horror films. I have had my fill of Paranormal Activity sequels, Cloverfield rip-offs, and The Blair Witch Project imitations. It has been several years since I've seen a film shot in this style that I liked - Chronicle - so I expected the worst from Afflicted. I was doubly worried after seeing the trailer, which promised body horror, vampires, zombies or some other overused villain. Much to my surprise, this Canadian import turned out to be pretty entertaining. Afflicted is not going to single-handedly revitalize the found-footage genre, but the clever script and tight direction by Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, who also star, elevates Afflicted over lesser films that use found footage solely as a gimmick.
Longtime buds Derek (Lee) and Clif (Prowse) decide to take a year to travel the world, documenting the entire trip for an online blog and travelogue. The trip is a last hurrah of sorts for Derek, whose doctor tries to discourage him from going because of Derek's abnormal arterial connections within his brain. Sudden death be damned, Derek decides to join Clif, first stopping in Paris to meet some other friends. Derek takes a girl home from a club, and Clif, hoping to embarrass his buddy in the throws of passion, bursts into Derek's room, where Derek lays bloody and motionless in bed. Once roused, Derek tends to his wounds and assures Clif he can continue the trip, but Derek soon begins exhibiting abnormal, super-human qualities like increased speed, the ability to leap onto roofs, and an aversion to sunlight.
The first and main thing Afflicted has going for it is the duo that handles the action in front of and behind the camera. Lee and Prowse, who previously worked together on several short films, bring an easy friendship to the screen, and I never doubted that the men are great friends on screen and in their personal lives. That really sells the action and how the on-screen Derek and Clif relate to one another. As far as found-footage horror movies go, Afflicted had me believing that what I was seeing was completely real. The guys are also very funny together, and their loosely scripted film is ripe with ribbing and good-natured humor.
When things go South they go in a way that separates Afflicted from countless other films in this genre. Derek becomes the star as he struggles with his new affliction, and Lee does a nice job mixing the pure terror, excitement and uncertainty someone in Derek's situation would surely feel. Derek's eventual actions have consequences, which land him in trouble with Interpol, and he attempts to return to Paris under cover of darkness to find the woman who ruined his vacation. Things get a little pedestrian during the climax, and the final revelation is neither unexpected nor particularly unique. Even so, Afflicted is entertaining enough to recommend. The film uses found-footage effectively, and the directors actually capture crisp, clear shots throughout the film. This is a nice change from the blurry, nauseatingly shaky footage I anticipated. I look forward to Lee and Prowse's next project.
The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is generally crisp and clear, exhibiting the limitations of the digital source without becoming distracting. Lighting and detail vary by design, and there is an expected blur during fast-motion scenes. There is plenty of detail and texture, bold colors and decent black levels. There is some digital noise and blown-out highlights, but this is a source issue and not a Blu-ray flaw.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a bit more dynamic than what the on-screen cameras can record, but the directors don't create a completely cinematic mix. Instead, this track is a fairly believable complement to the found-footage, complete with imperfections expected during chaotic, violent action. Dialogue is generally clear and crisp, action effects do make use of the surrounds and subwoofer, and the mix provides a naturally immersive experience.
Sony includes an UltraViolet HD Digital copy with Afflicted. Extras include several Deleted Scenes (8:14 total/HD); a short EPK featurette, Behind the Scenes of Afflicted (3:51/HD); and Anatomy of a Scene: The Window Jump (2:30/HD). You also get some bonus previews.
Derek Lee and Clif Prowse write, direct and star in this interesting found-footage horror film. Afflicted isn't going to wash the unpleasant taste of lesser genre films out of my mouth completely, but it's a step in the right direction. Lee and Prowse share an easy chemistry that translates to the screen, and they use found footage as more than a gimmick. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.