Fantastic Fest Review: AFFLICTED Is CHRONICLE, With Vampires

Found footage fighty vampires travel Europe in this disappointing waste of good characters.

Found footage is here to stay, horror fans. As much as we moan and complain about the aesthetic, it simply isn’t going away, so we should be thankful at least when a found footage movie goes the extra mile to be presented as a well-edited fake doc, like Afflicted. If only Afflicted had gone the other extra mile to include something original I might have actually liked it.

But here’s the thing: I think a lot of people will like Afflicted. It’s a well-made example of what it is, with a pair of engaging leads and some well-done special effects. The problem for me is that what it is is, largely, a remake of Chronicle... but with vampires.

Clif and Derek are best friends for years, and they’re embarking on a round-the-world trip they intend to document extensively and share on their travel blog (you know, to justify the fact that someone is filming all the time). The trip is motivated partially by the fact that the guys want to see the world, but more than anything it’s motivated by the fact that Derek has recently learned he has a tangle of blood vessels in his brain that could pop at any moment, perhaps killing him. This trip is his defiant action against his own mortality.

Which is ironic, because once the trip gets to Paris Derek finds himself seduced and attacked by a strange woman, and in a couple of days he exhibits bizarre symptoms, like super strength, super speed and an alarming sensitivity to sunset. Eventually he figures it out - way after the audience does - he’s a vampire. He and Clif begin documenting this most extraordinary medical condition as they also deal with the fact the downside of being a vampire is a constant, driving need to drink blood.

The first half of Afflicted, which is written and directed by Clif Prowse and Derek Lee (who also play themselves) is pretty strong. The relationship between the two is real, and is sweet. The travel stuff is fun - these guys are dorks more than bros (it’s Afflicted, not Affliction), and their interest in picking up girls is sweet. It’s not Hostel. Once Derek gets the bug the movie begins losing its way, making some second act choices that, for me, killed the film. When the movie returns to Paris for a showdown with the vampire who sired Derek, I was all but checked out of Afflicted.

The film’s vampire lore is generic and uninteresting, which makes the lengthy exposition about it dull. What’s most interesting in Afflicted is the relationship between Clif and Derek, and instead of exploring how becoming an undead monster impacts that, Afflicted in the last act goes for some kind of low-budget actionfest. All of the whooshing and punching and jumping out of frame in that act might have had more impact if Chronicle hadn’t already done the exact same stuff just a year ago.

Afflicted is more disappointing than terrible. Clif and Derek are wasted protagonists, and the film’s lack of imagination cripples it. There are a couple of stings that set up inevitable sequels, but I can’t imagine I’d be interested in coming back for more adventures of the Found Footage Vampire.