It seems like just as it’s started, the found footage genre is seeing its demise. Looking at this year’s release calender alone, it’s apparent that studios are funding less and less of these found footage type films, despite the low risk/high reward nature of them. After only a few films, many have called the found footage filmmaking style a gimmick, with even the found footage staple Paranormal Activity losing much interest with each new sequel that comes out.
Personally, though, it seems like this technique of filmmaking had shown some promise. Although the found footage horror films are getting quite tired, last year’s science fiction flick Europa Report and 2012’s superhero flick Chronicle really pushed the found footage technique forward in a lot of great ways. Both films used the found footage style as a means to tell the story in a more personal way, rather than just using the technology to save money in production. The latest found footage film Afflicted also pushes the genre forward in a lot of ways, but is ultimately an unsuccessful film.
Afflicted follows two best friends who decide to go on a tour of the world, when one of them suddenly comes down with a mysterious affliction.
As I mentioned, Afflicted does a great job of pushing forward the found footage filmmaking style, with perhaps the most impressive found footage yet visually. Directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse really have a great understanding of how to use the found footage style, while still making the film look visually appealing. The duo, teamed with cinematographer Norm Li, get some great shots, from the beauty of European landscapes to the dark alleys of the night.
Despite its low budget, Afflicted features some really convincing action setpieces. Unlike Chronicle, which felt the need to show the action from the perspective of multiple different cameras, Afflicted’s action is in more of a POV perspective. This POV perspective is far more exciting to watch, as each character jumping from building to building feels far more involving and exciting. As an audience, you feel a real sense of impact with each bullet and punch.
Afflicted features a lot of great individual moments that surprised me in a big way. The plot itself takes a few bold twists and turns that felt very bold and new, and also added a lot to the film. One moment in particular that occurs mid-way through the film changes the film in a big way, and is one of the more shocking moments in a film I’ve seen so far this year. Although, these great moments are few and far between.
Often times throughout this film, scenes are quite tedious. This is especially the case with the first 40 minutes or so, as most of the scenes range from expository set-ups to moments of the protagonists experiencing these new-found powers of sorts. Many of them felt very much run of the mill and dull to watch due to how familiar they felt.
Both directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse are the stars of the film as well, and their performances for the most part were mediocre at best. Worst of all, both really have no characters. They have an inital set-up, sure, but that did not feel like enough for me to really get behind them. They were just kind of bland people, with nothing really standing out about their characters.
Afflicted tries to establish an emotional core with the friendship between Lee and Prowse’s characters, as both have been dear friends who have stuck by each other through thick and thin. That concept is a solid one, but is not executed as well as it could have been. It was hard for me to really feel for these characters’ dynamic because to me both felt largely like blank slates. It was such a shame that it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been, because it had the potential to be quite effective.
Not only is the emotional core concept not fleshed out well, but most of the aspects of the story are very much half-baked. The origin of this affliction itself is a very poorly defined one, as the reveal is thrown out there in the final minutes of the film. Also, this film features a post credit scene that is an interesting idea, but did not make a lot of sense in general considering the earlier events in the film.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Afflicted, though, is just how formulaic everything is about the film. It seems like Lee and Prowse were very much inspired by Chronicle, but took a bit too much from it. Not only that, but the film in general has many of same beats, as it’s easy to see where the characters are going and how it’s all going to turn out. The pair do throw in a surprise or two, but in the end, it turns out exactly as one would expect it to.
Afflicted has a lot of great promise behind it, but the execution is overall sub-par. Although, this does show that found footage can still be used to tell a story, but hopefully the stories that are used are more inspired.
Take a Drink: anytime a character heavily convulses
Do a Shot: during the throw-up scene, you will need it
Take a Drink: for each amazing stunt
Last Call: For the end credit scene, which really changes a lot about the film.