I saw the trailer for Afflicted a long time ago. At the time, I wrote it off as another found footage, digital effects reel that I would get around to eventually. I figured it would be one of those movies that I wouldn’t necessarily hate, but I wouldn’t necessarily love either. So, I didn’t make any effort whatsoever to seek it out. When I saw it on Amazon Prime, I put it in my queue and let it languish for a while. The other night, while looking for something to watch with my stepfather-in-law (is that a real title?), I decided on Afflicted. Why? Well, it was there. And I hadn’t seen it. And it was PG-13, so I figured it probably wouldn’t embarrass me in front of a senior citizen. (sex stuff) You’re probably wondering how that worked out for me. Well, it’s your lucky day, because I’m about to tell you!
Derek and Clif are best buds who are setting out to travel the world for a year. Clif, an aspiring documentary filmmaker, is going to record everything and maintain the duo’s travel blog of videos (i refuse to write the word “vlog”. wait…dammit!) Derek has decided to grab life by the horns since finding out that he has a rare neurological condition which may cause sudden, premature death. Only a few days into their trip, however, the boys run into some trouble. Derek, a noted shy guy, works up the courage to talk to a beautiful woman at a club and ends up leaving with her to head back to the hotel. When Clif and a couple of friends get back there later, they find Derek bleeding and unconscious. He has a nasty bump on his head and a gash on his arm, but he refuses to go to the doctor because they might keep him due to his condition. He insists that he’s fine, so they continue on their journey. But it seems he’s not fine. He’s sleeping a ton, he can’t keep food down, and he’s looking a little peaked. Oh, and he can punch through cement walls now. Either his condition is acting up and he’s going to die, or something else is afflicting (!) him.
One of my biggest complaints about found footage type films is that characters continue to film when no rational person would. If you are being chased by a maniac with a fishhook-studded dildo, you aren’t going to be framing up your shots for optimal audience scares. Second and third on my complaints list are soundtrack stings and score. When did our protagonists find time to edit in some startling sound effects and a spooky score? If for nothing else, Afflicted should be commended for doing right in these areas. But there is something else. Several things, in fact. The characters show an affectionate chemistry with one another that grounds their friendship. Cliff is obviously worried about his friend. He’s torn between getting him help and respecting his wishes. The inevitable outcome of Derek’s disease and the futility of “help” further complicates Clif’s dilemma. It’s a subtle but intelligent touch that offers a reasonable explanation for the guys’ actions. And the continued documentation of their ordeal is explained satisfactorily through Derek’s insistence that Clif document his “affliction”. This is done in very clever ways with some acrobatic editing and camera work. And, yes, it is a bit of an effects reel, but it manages to be that within an engaging (and terrifying) story. A story which managed to surprise me with a bit of sleight of hand (metaphorical, there are no card tricks) that made me smile approvingly.
The Final Cut: Afflicted is a shining example of found footage done right. The leads are convincingly motivated to film the symptoms, shocks, and violence of the central “affliction” and they are all terrifying.