Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Afflicted – review

Directors: Derek Lee & Clif Prowse

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

Found footage films can really go wrong and they are a relative rarity within the vampire movie genre (and of course, this sort of film will not work if your vampires don’t show on film). This film has bits of many of the premises that make up the found footage genre and they actually work with this film… Firstly the idea that the footage is found works, which is a bonus, secondly it is a mockumentary with directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse taking centre stage as they make themselves the main characters and thirdly it is POV in many places but this makes sense too (during high action a character is not holding a camera, they have chest mounted cameras).

It is, also, a vampire genre movie and whilst there is some angsty self-loathing the film manages to go beyond that angst. So, what is at all about?

Clif Prowse as Clif
Derek and Clif are best friends and are looking to go on a one year trip around the world. Derek used to travel a lot with his family but has found himself stuck behind a desk for 5 years. However he has been diagnosed with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) in his brain and this may kill him at any time and so, against his family’s wishes, he wants to do the trip. Clif is a documentary maker and so intends to film all the trip and post onto a website – making it interactive with people throwing in suggestions of what they should do.

finding Derek
They start the trip in Barcelona, meeting up with friends in the band Unalaska and then travel to Paris with them. At an Unalaska gig Derek is looking to get lucky and meets a lady named Audrey (Baya Rehaz). He takes her back to the hotel room that he shares with Clif and the band, and so his room-mates decide to “Turkish Cockblock” him and run in whilst he’s on the job, as it were. They get there and Derek is bleeding on the bed, a wound on his arm and head. Audrey is not there but her clothes are.

punched through wall
Derek remembers nothing after she hit him round the head. He and Clif go to Italy and Derek spends several days sleeping (there is concern shown by Clif around the head injury, through this section, but Derek won’t entertain the idea of a hospital as he fears he’ll never leave). Eventually Clif drags him up and takes him to a restaurant – but a mouthful of food causes Derek to spew violently. They take a trip to a vineyard but the sunlight exposure causes him to start blistering. Eventually he manages to punch a hole in the side of a wall. There are some fun and frolics testing his strength, his ability to run fast and jump. Eventually, due to weird things going on with his eyes (and contact lenses) and pains wracking his body they head to a hospital.

vomiting cow's blood
A car mishap outside (Derek causes it to swerve and crash) ends up in a fight, with Derek tossing the driver and passenger around like dolls. Clif is still publishing online and a website reader notes that Derek licks the blood from his hand. Blood, it would seem, is the answer. However, when they try cow’s blood he vomits it up. He decides it needs to be fresh, but that doesn’t work either. Human blood is the key – though showing your I.D. before fighting out of a blood bank and then hijacking an ambulance will bring you to the police’s attention. Also, lack of blood leads to strange effects for Derek’s body…

lack of blood
Which is where I’ll leave the story but not the effects I just mentioned as they are part of the lore. Derek’s eyes change, going “zombie white” if I can put it that way, when he needs blood. He will, early on, have seizures and foam at the mouth. At one point he is paralysed though his head will follow, in an autonomic way, human flesh (containing blood). Eventually he becomes an animalistic thing. Later we discover that is he doesn’t feed at least every 5 days then he will transform into such a bestial, growling creature permanently.

suicide attempt
There is no answer given to how these vampires can be killed. The sun sears their flesh and, one expects, if the exposure was long enough they will eventually become their bestial side and get out of the sun or die. This regression certainly happens if they sustain injury. There is an attempted suicide by Derek, with a shotgun, which fails as – despite blowing the back of his own head out – he comes back. The transmission factor is not directly explored; Audrey admits Derek was a mistake. The film has further footage within the credits, so watch through them.

Derek Lee as Derek
The two guys come across as likeable but occasional dicks. I am sure that is what they were aiming for. They also come across as rather inept – to the point of stupid. I could appreciate the “documenting the phenomena” aspect but don’t get why footage of the hospital fight would be put on the net, for instance. Why Derek showed his I.D. at the blood bank befuddled, indeed why he didn’t just break in after it closed was beyond me. However, I never got the sense that these moments were in just to move the story along, rather they genuinely were self-depreciating as they created their on-screen alter egos.

super jumps
The effects worked remarkably well but, if I had to cite an issue with the film, it was that it had little in the way of complex story. Derek gets infected, works out what is going on, tries to find Audrey… That sums it up really and there is no great revelation it is almost just a (fantastical) slice of life. The simplicity worked for the film in terms of the first viewing but probably makes repeated viewings less fulfilling. However there is nothing ultimately wrong with that, the film is as it was designed to be. I found Audrey’s set up intriguing and there would have been a whole deeper story side there if they had wanted to explore it. The vampirism was brutal, violent and supernatural. Ultimately the toughness of these beasts suggests that we really should be overrun with them. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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