When a horror film starts to receive a lot of attention and a lot of critical acclaim I am usually forced to make a touch decision: Let the hype influence my opinion, or give the film time to breathe and approach it unfettered by the views of my friends and peers. After seeing the trailers, however, my enthusiasm to see Afflicted prompted me to choose the former.
Afflicted chronicles the globe-trotting adventures of Derek and Clif as they embark on a year long adventure spanning the planet. Clif, an avid documentarian is dedicated to committing the entire journey to film, uploading daily videos to their travel blog for all the internet to see. It is also during this little introductory montage of clips that we learn of Derek’s affliction, a tangled mass of nerves in his brain that could ender him paralyzed or prove fatal at a moments’s notice, spurring him to live everyday as though it was his last. We follow the duo through Barcelona and on to France where a chance encounter with a mysterious woman set the films pace off to a brisk run through the rest of its running time. The reveal, of course, is not something that I am willing to give away, but suffice it to say, it really is the lynchpin behind why a movie like Afflicted works as well as it does.
Found footage gets a pretty bad rap nowadays and I really can’t blame the naysayers because it has, for the most part, outlived its usefulness. It, in many circumstances, is a gimmick, that while useful at times, also allows filmmakers to be unapologetically lazy at others. Forget about seeing lush panoramic establishing shots, fantastically created sets and even a rousing, unsettling score. Found footage is gorilla film-making at its worst and yes, the horror genre has overused it to the fullest extent. Filmmakers still persist to use it and fans still vocalize their disapproval. I definitely belong to the camp that feels as though we have seen a device that has long outstayed its welcome, a device that only rarely, VERY rarely is used in a fashion that actually gives it purpose. Afflicted, luckily, does just that.
Afflicted allows us to live vicariously through its characters, characters that, much to the horror grind-mill’s chagrin as of late, actually allow us to empathize with them. THIS is where Afflicted starts to succeed early on ints first quarter. Derek and Clif are likable, strangely in their lack of unique qualities. They are every-men, characters that exist in the next cubicle, un-astounding, non-spectacular people that still manage to endear us to them and their conflicts. Derek and Clif are not chiseled underwear models that collect women like trophies. Neither are they sniveling weaklings that succumb to the taunts of their tormenters and fall victim to the cruelties of the world. They are you, they are me, they are best friends that would do anything for each other and that is exemplified by the onscreen rapport of the film’s leads. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. EMPATHY is the key to developing characters that can carry a script, and horror undoubtedly needs more of that.
Oh, horror, you ask? Yes, when Afflicted hits sprinting speed we get plenty of what we came for, as well as some surprises. By the time we reach its final act, Afflicted not only shows us it an effective horror film, but a very capable and adrenaline fueled horror-action film. Yes, a horror-action film that makes use of the found footage method in a way that, had we seen more like it in its predecessors, we might be willing to stick around a little longer to see what direction the POV technique is willing to take us in the future. Although Afflicted might unfortunately be a little too late in making us rethink this over-used of sub-genres, it certainly makes us rethink its storytelling ability when done correctly. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.