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Afflicted | Review

From Dusk Till Foregone: Prowse & Lee’s Entertaining Debut Suffers From Formatting Traps

Afflicted Derek Lee Clif Prowse PosterThere’s a lot of uncomfortable fun to be had as Afflicted unspools, the directorial debut of Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, both playing versions of themselves in this faux documentary/found footage hybrid from filmmakers that seem to understand the importance of high stakes and emotionally invested tension. Unfortunately, they can’t quite get beyond the rather limited formatting ills of the found footage genre, defying logic and common sense as the effort to “capture everything” overrides rational thought. Despite its lapse into inevitability in the last act, however, this is certainly a winning effort that manages to utilize the cheapness of found footage to create some spectacular effects that may not have otherwise been possible on their budget, even as it backs their perspective into a corner.

Clif (Clif Prowse) and Derek (Derek Lee) have been best friends since they were kids, and have been extensively planning a project to travel the world and film all of their experiences over the course of a year for Clif’s documentary film project. What seems a dream come true is hampered by Derek’s discovery that he suffers from a condition called AVM, basically a cluster of arteries and veins located in his head (though these can occur anywhere in the body) that are malformed, and if ruptured, would cause bleeding and potentially kill him. Deciding that now’s the best time to get this long gestating project underway, the two pals begin their journey in Barcelona, continuing on to Paris, where they meet two other friends who are touring in a band.

Out late partying one night, Derek hooks up with a pretty young lady and his three scurrilous friends decide to drop in on the couple and catch the endeavor on camera. Only, when they bust in on Derek’s love nest they find him knocked out, a bloody gash in his arm, while the young woman is nowhere in sight. Eerily, her clothes are still there. Upon being revived, Derek insists on avoiding the hospital, afraid that once there, he won’t be allowed to leave. Against his better judgment, Clif agrees to believe Derek’s claim that he feels alright and they continue on their journey to Italy. But they quickly learn that Derek is starting to transform into something.

Before Afflicted starts to get gruesome, it will remind you a bit of the similarly structured Chronicle, with Derek experimenting with his new found physical prowess much like Derek DeHaan does in that film. To their credit, Prowse and Lee appear to be a bit more inventive with what they’re doing. However, it seems a bit unreasonable that the duo would keep filming AND posting their footage online for all friends, family, and authorities to see as Derek changes into a vampiric creature that has to drink the fresh blood of humans or degenerate into some sort of more insidious, base creature. While they try to work around this by strapping cameras to their torsos, creating a damn good chase scene through the sun soaked streets of Italy, the continual talking to the camera feels lazy—it’d be better for us to see Derek’s transformation physically then tell us via melodramatic diatribe.

The idea to pursue the strange woman that afflicted him in Paris seems a bit anticlimactic, especially as both Derek and the audience aren’t necessarily surprised by what she has to say. It’s here where Afflicted begins to seem crippled by the found footage gimmick, choking it like a noose once it confirms our predictions. But to have switched to third person narration would have required a budget to match an impressive throw down. As far as performance goes, Prowse and Lee are winning personalities, particularly Lee, who does an excellent job building a sympathetic character. However, his performance tends to veer on schlock during his meltdown phase, once he finally realizes what he’s become. Overall, Afflicted is an entertaining genre film, presenting a handful of scenes to satisfy the gore mongers as well as those seeking a little substance.

★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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