When I was a child, we went on (what came to be known as) the worst vacation ever to Virginia Beach. It started with a chance breakfast at a Shoney’s in West Virginia. A cockroach climbed under my grandma’s purse. I pointed it out, and the entire table stopped eating. Before the check was paid, a young girl walked by our table and promptly threw up. This was foreshadowing to what was to come.
Apparently that stomach flu was contagious as we all took turns (I am the oldest of four children.) being sick the entire time we were in Virginia. The hotel staff began leaving sheets outside our door whether we needed them or not. I never got to see the ocean once that year. I never ate shrimp and crab. I think I swam in the pool once.
In CBS Films’ Afflicted, Derek and Cliff put that trip to shame when Derek begins changing into something supernatural. Afflicted is found footage done right, and does not stick to the established formula the genre drowns itself in.
Derek (Derek Lee) is a successful software developer that (after finding that money earned does not equal life experiences) decides to travel around the world with long time friend Cliff (Clif Prowse). Cliff fancies himself a director, and plans on filming every one of their escapades and posting it to his website. To do this, Cliff has thousands of dollars worth of cameras and accessories (including a vest which actually allows him to get multiple angles of a shot by strapping multiple cameras to it).
One of their first stops is in Paris, France where they meet up with college friends who are touring with their band (Unalaska…I’m not even going to pretend to figure out what that means.). Cliff decides to find Derek a woman, and does. Derek and Audrey (Baya Rehaz) go back to the hotel together to be alone. When Cliff and the others try to surprise him as a joke, they find a beaten (bitten) Derek unconscious on the bed. Derek has no idea what happened, and the duo proceed on schedule (albeit bruised and stitched up).
In Italy, Derek stops eating and sleeps for a couple days straight. His frustrations begin to boil, and he manages to punch a hole through a stone wall. This leads to the duo investigating what Derek can do as his body seems to be making very dramatic changes. He has super strength, speed, and even has a very wonderful scene in a dark alley that had me cringing.
Afflicted is found footage, but it does manage to write itself out of the usual found footage plot holes that form. There still are moments when you think “WHY are they still filming?”, but the film effectively uses some creative writing (and the aforementioned vest) in a wide array of situations. Derek wears the vest quite often during the film, and we are given point of view shots of rooftop jumps, monster attacks, and brazen getaways. It not only documents the transformation, but it serves as evidence that the characters eventually cling to.
And this is why I liked this film so much. The story doesn’t end when the transformation is complete. Derek’s change is only the beginning, and I was not prepared for that. As Derek changes, Cliff speculates that a piece of him is still in the beast despite what we see. Hell, we don’t even know what Derek is changing into, but (whatever it is) it can best be described as a conglomerate of many nightmares. Whether Cliff is right or wrong is a different story, but I will say that this: I have never seen a found footage handled in this way, and it was phenomenal. Kudos.
I actually wonder if Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones was pushed back from its planned October release (It came out in January of this year.) because of this film. Afflicted wowed the fans at Fantastic Fest in 2013 (September), and the films tend to run a close parallel of each other. Derek and Cliff have much of the same dynamic as Jesse and Hector in that film, and they react similarly to the supernatural. They are likable characters, and to see them intrigued and testing Derek’s new powers seems completely reasonable and something I would do too.
The found footage genre has evolved from slow burn films with big finishes to cohesive stories filled with action and special effects. Afflicted is a great film that stands above the others in this category with its revolutionary approach to this model. This is definitely worth a look.