John’s Horror Corner: Afflicted (2013), a contemporary vampire film following the Chronicle playbook
MY CALL: The first half of this film serves as a stand alone film with great characters and a cool story. The second half squanders all the good that was curried in the first. Watch for the splendid beginning and try not to let the ending ruin it for you. MOVIES LIKE Afflicted: Chronicle (2012).
In most familiar form, this found footage film begins with a scene in which we are introduced to our protagonists. This smacks of obvious staging on the part of the writers and director and, in concept, it’s not an original idea. However, this is effective when done well and it really got me to invest myself in the Cloverfield (2008) characters.
In this film, the introduction to our stars Derek (Derek Lee) and Clif (Clif Prowse) is SUPERB! The directors and especially the film editors did a spectacular job to get me to completely forget that I was watching a horror movie as I enjoyed meeting this fun-filled pair. Our heroes are embarking on a bromance-adventure around the world and they’re going to record everything and make a topical website/blogumentary chroniclng their adventure.
I must say that I was astonished at how much I liked these characters within the first three minutes of this film. This is a rare quality in ANY film! Most horror movies are made to turn a profit. This was clearly crafted as a labor of love. These guys didn’t just have an idea worth showing us, they wanted to show us their real journey together as filmmakers as a meta-prologue to this film…this horror film. What a creative leap! They show actual film footage and photos of themselves together as teenagers sharing their love for filmmaking and convincing us of their most sincere bro-bond. It’s actually kind of…well…sweet. You believe these characters because these actors are these characters, they have taken their actual selves and imported that concept into a horror premise. I shit you not, I stopped the movie and started it over after the perfectly done six minute intro just to watch it again in all its splendor. These characters are full of life-loving passion, every day quirks and credible flaws. You will identify with their dreams. Even if you don’t enjoy the horror of this movie, you’d have to be stone cold to not enjoy the intro.
Things take an interesting turn when our gameless Derek–against all geeky odds–manages to take a French girl to his hotel room and Clif later finds him beaten and gashed up, unconscious, and with no recollection. Clearly sick with something but driven to continue, Derek insists they continue their expedition. From this point, what would normally be formulaic feels subtly approached yet tactfully shocking. Derek begins exhibiting symptoms that are all too familiar to any horror fan. These symptoms are presented cleverly, they foreshadow a dubious future, and they stoke the playful intrigue of discovery much as was done in Chronicle (2012). In many ways, this film borrows from Chronicle (2012). Derek seems to have superpowers.
Derek also seems to be…changing. With this change the tone shifts from fun and adventurous, to dark…and darker. Unfortunately the “darker” third act of this film (which is half of its running time) seems to fall apart, squandering the interest it curried in the first 45 minutes.
I was never someone to scoff at found footage films. Whereas many unfairly stereotype that it’s just a cheap method to get low quality films released quickly, I always viewed the style as a “tool”–and I think most open-minded critics would have to agree. Crappy films come in all forms, and so do GREAT films. The first 45 minute of this movie (but not the second half) represents a good film and I hope it will get found footage haters to shut their mouths and re-evaluate whether they’re truly mad at found footage as a style….or if they’re simply upset and feel cheated for wasting their money on a few horror duds that happen to be found footage horror while completely ignoring the horror slop they also hated that happened to have standard (and thus more expensive) production. Found footage is “different” so it’s easy to point a finger at it and say that’s why it’s not good. Don’t just join the mob and hate…even if you didn’t like this film.
My biggest criticism of this film is that it probably should have only been 45 minutes. It could have ended right there appropriately. After about the 45 minute mark this seems to become an entirely different movie and all the cool, the new and the interesting has already become old hat.
Despite my feelings about the second half of this film, the first half stands alone as a good film and should be celebrated.