There hasn't been very much for horror fans to be excited about over the past few years. While there are exceptions to this, the majority of the films released in this genre are unfortunate sequels, prequels, and remakes. It's been far too long since I have seen a genuinely well-crafted and unique concept come along in this particular genre. To the contrary of what many audiences and studios believe, a horror film isn't successful simply because it offers jump-scares or buckets of blood. There's a lot more to it that the major Hollywood studios aren't understanding. There are a lot of gems out there that aren't receiving the attention that they deserve. Afflicted is most certainly one of these titles. While the buzz from Fantastic Fest was positive, it still isn't known by most mainstream audiences. This horror film proves that a unique concept and a strong direction can go a long way.
After being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, Derek Lee (Derek Lee) decides that he still wants to go on a trip around the world with his best friend, Cliff Prowse (Clif Prowse). They decide to document the entire trip in order to generate content for their travel blog. However, this dream soon turns into a nightmare when Derek is struck by a mysterious affliction. They're in a foreign land and don't know anybody around them, but must race to uncover the source before it consumes him completely.
Afflicted takes two sub-genres of the horror genre and decides to turn them both upside down. The first is the "found footage" concept, while the second I will keep a secret for those who have yet to see the film. The motion picture starts just as you would imagine any "found footage" horror flick to begin. The friends play pranks on each other and continue to talk about where they will travel next. However, one aspect of the set-up is incredibly different. Writer/directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse wanted to make this picture as realistic as possible by keeping as many aspects of their characters as close to their real lives as possible. The first act is dedicated to character disposition and to allow us to understand the relationship that these friends have, permitting us to care about them when everything takes a turn for the worst. After Derek's affliction begins to take ahold of him, we think that it will be quite obvious what will happen next. Fortunately, Afflicted makes several twists and turns in order to keep us on our toes.
You know all of those clichés that have been developed over the years? Well, throw everything you know about them out the window. Filmmakers Lee and Prowse follow their own rules, and aren't afraid to change what we know about these two sub-genres. This is the point of the story where some viewers may draw some comparisons to Chronicle, as it appears as if Derek has developed superpowers. However, that isn't the direction that Afflicted is moving in. He's turning into something much darker. There's a point around half-way in the running time where most of these pictures would end and roll the credits, but it keeps going. Once you hit that point in the feature, there's no turning back. Everything before this was simply setting up for what is to come. This horror picture begins to show some clear inspirations from the action genre, as well. It becomes much bigger than most audiences will be expecting it to be, as Derek is forced into some tight situations with the Interpol.
While there is plenty of bloodshed in Afflicted, it ultimately focuses more on its ideas and working against a lot of the things that we know about horror. The film primarily provides thrills, but there are quite a few chills, as well. Not only did I catch myself jumping a couple times, but there are some scenes that sent a chill up my spine. There are some subtle elements utilized, delivering on each of the eerie notes that it strives for. Derek can only control his new "abilities" to a certain point, which is when they take over. At this point, he's no longer in control of his body. This is when the film truly excels and becomes a true powerhouse. It's dark, brutal, and extremely entertaining. The law enforcement is forced to send in entire squads to attempt to capture him, but they don't know what they're dealing with. This leads to a bloodbath that will have you entirely captivated and gripping your armrests. It's been quite some time since I have been able to say that about a horror movie.
Since this is meant to be grounded in real life, you won't recognize a single member of the cast. However, that isn't to say that the performances are poor. In fact, they work incredibly well, since the cast is simply playing themselves in order to create a more realistic atmosphere. Derek Lee does a phenomenal job, especially as his body continues to be taken a hold of by the affliction. Lee contorts his body and successfully delivers upon this ordinary man who is put in an extraordinary situation. Meanwhile, Cliff Prowse is quite decent, as well. While he isn't required to do nearly as much as Lee, he still makes for a relatable character that audiences will be able to sympathize with. Every interaction had between these two best friends feels quite natural.
Given the fact that Afflicted is a relatively low-budget horror flick, you must be wondering how it looks. Well, it helps that this is shot in a "found footage" style. Fortunately, the frame never appears too shaky, as I never became dizzy. Instead of having two characters simply running around with cameras, they have them strapped to their torsos through the majority of the running time. This allows for relatively smooth POV that provides some excellent shots. The makeup is absolutely stunning, as Derek's transformation is quite grotesque and effective. Every shot in this film looks more realistic than you'd expect. There is an extremely small amount of CG, but all of it looks good. A lot of stunt work is utilized once Derek truly begins using his "abilities," which look even better with having the cameras strapped to the actors' torsos. The budget has most certainly been distributed to the right areas.
Afflicted proves that there are still filmmakers out there who are coming up with unique ideas, who enjoy keeping us on the edge of our seats. The reason I have been so vague in my review is to ensure that no surprises are spoiled. Writer/directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse know what audiences are expecting, and they manage to deliver one surprise after another. These two filmmakers have brought two seemingly lifeless horror sub-genres back from the dead. They turned what could have been another routine horror flick into something unique and engaging. The running time is a little bit on the short side, but it gets everything across without dragging its feet, nor rushing through anything. Afflicted is a horror gem that successfully breathes new life into two sub-genres. Highly recommended!