Horror movies aren’t effective when they rely solely on jump scares. Setting off loud noises to make people jump isn’t scary. You’re only jumping because loud noises are one of two rational fears. But that’s not true horror. True horror is when you feel a deep unsettling ease take over your body. True horror is when the tension and paranoia is so heightened, that it’s almost unbearable. True horror is when it stays with you long after it’s over like bodily harm or general dismemberment (to a point of course, we don't want to fall into the category of "torture porn" because then it just becomes flat out tiresome).
The kind of horror that gets under your skin and digs in deep is what works best. That’s the kind of horror that’s ever-present in Afflicted. Sure the film has the requisite jump scares and it treads into clichéd story territory here and there, but it’s the way that it’s all done that makes it stand out.
Unlike most found-footage horror films, [Afflicted](movie:1242932) succeeds because the friendship between the two main characters actually feels genuine. As opposed to "Hey look we're all on camera! It's all real, so let's all hold hands and believe we were all actually friends at some point", the "characters" of Cliff and Derek feel like they would actually be friends in real life. Afflicted also works in the the way that Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones was solely effective: it's pretty funny.
The rapport and back-and-forth witty banter between Cliff and Derek has its moments of surprising humour when testing out what happens to Derek. In this regard Afflicted is also reminiscent of Chronicle in how these guys react to what's going on. Being given the ability to punch through walls, run faster than a motorcycle or jump a great distance from building to building is basically what a bunch of friends would totally do with those kind of abilities.
While Afflicted is a creepy and engaging visceral experience, it still feels hamstrung by its own genre limitations at the end of the day. The editing is at times jarring by having an intense scene immediately met with a cut to black, followed by a "quieter" scene and then all repeated once again. The film clocks in at a relatively scant runtime of 85 minutes, so a lot has to happen and times feels short-changed by Afflicted's oftentimes rushed nature.
A common complaint about found-footage films is "Why are they filming this? What's the point?". Afflicted does address this in some regard and has genuine reasons for why they're filming, but only to a point. Cliff and Derek are filming their year-long around-the-world travel and posting it on their blog. When things start to go sideways however, they keep posting on their blog which is an incredibly stupid thing to do. I get what's going on looks cool (technically speaking a lot of the stunts in Afflicted are very impressive), but good lord is posting online what's actually going on incredibly idiotic.
There's a reason the cops are after you. Maybe it has something to do with that video you just posted ten minutes ago... Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? No? Just me? Oh okay then...
Afflicted is definitely one of the better found-footage horror films out there due to the chemistry between its two leads, the impressive camera-work and the buckets of blood and gore. That being said, it's also still just another found-footage movie at the end of the day. One has to wonder what it would have been like had it been done as a normal movie with found-footage involved in the narrative, like 2012's brilliant horror film Sinister. Then it would have been just the tops.
3.5 stars out of 5