Judge Daryl Loomis is blogging his thrilling trip across Nebraska.
Captured. On film.
One of the unique things about body horror is that there isn't really a villain. Well, there is, I guess, but it's generally the same person as the hero, which really changes the game from what we expect from more conventional monster or slasher style horror. When the body is at war with itself, it opens up a lot of potential for more interpersonal drama and existential terror; not having to constantly run away from something helps a lot. It doesn't necessarily make a horror picture good, but at its best, say in something like David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, it can be an extremely visceral, impactful experience. We'll see how Afflicted fares on this level in the future, but for now, one of the first endeavors into body horror from a first person perspective is an interesting and exciting look into the degeneration of a sick man.
Facts of the Case
Derek (Derek Lee) and Cliff (Cliff Prowse) are going on the adventure of a lifetime: a trip around the world, seeing everything from the Eiffel Tower to the pyramids of Egypt. The pair doesn't get much farther than Paris, though, because Derek meets Audrey (Baya Rehaz, Blue Is the Warmest Color), who he thinks is an ordinary prostitute, but who treats him to a night of pleasure and a strange new disease. His mind is changing and, acting recklessly, discovers that his body has become almost superhuman. The catch is that he craves blood and he has little time before the sickness overtakes him.
It's not perfect, but Afflicted is a cool little action-horror movie. My expectations for it, based on trailers that I'd seen, may have been a little higher than the results that I got, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly the entire time. It's the kind of thing that takes me back to Larry Fessenden's Habit; it's little more than a vampire movie, but its approach is different and it feels fresh, especially given that the execution is some of the best that first person horror has ever offered.
There have been bigger budgets and bigger returns on smaller budgets in the genre, but none of that matters. Afflicted delivers fantastic action in a horror context. If you played the opening bit of Far Cry 3, or any number of other action games, you've seen the basic scenario that's being played with here. Lots of running and jumping from a first person perspective and, even though I'm not controlling the action like I do in the games, it delivers the same level of excitement and immediacy as they do, with the added benefit of some excellent stunts done on European streets to give it a sense of realism that animated pixels can never achieve.
Derek Lee and Cliff Prowse deserve every bit of credit here, as they wrote and directed Afflicted, as well as doing really well in their lead roles. They've executed brilliantly, delivering a few thrills and some fantastic stunts, while providing likable and fairly realistic characters, despite some lingering questions about how they have the money to go on this trip and an entirely unnecessary human interest bit that has essentially nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
That's the only real fault in the plotting and it isn't a major point, so it's a small thing. Otherwise, it handles the situation fairly realistically and, with the disease as the horror, there aren't any questions like "Why doesn't he just leave the house?" or anything like that. He has to deal with his situation and so do we.
The result, really, is a ton of fun. The stunts are excellent and, coming from a first person perspective, are a nicely realistic experience. Those with a distaste for shaky-cam won't find solace here, but having the stomach for it results in some effective and exciting work, with stuff I haven't really seen in the style. That it works to a conclusion that makes sense and fits both into its own logic and the mythology at large is a bonus. Afflicted might not be perfect, but it's most definitely a breath of fresh air in the first person horror world.
Afflicted arrives on Blu-ray from Sony in a perfectly acceptable release. The 1.85:1/1080p transfer isn't perfect, but it's not supposed to be. There's pretty good detail when the camera is stationary, but that's not very often, and colors are accurate. It's a little rough looking at times, but it's intentional, so while there's nothing reference quality, it's as intended.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround sound is pretty solid, though is a fairly front-loaded mix. Dialog and music both sound pretty strong on the front end, while there is some decent work in the surround channels and no background noise to deal with.
Extras are limited, but decent. They start with three deleted scenes, which deliver a little more exposition, but nothing that really enhances the final product. A standard behind-the-scenes featurette and a short bit on one of the big stunts are all that's left, but both are interesting enough.
Afflicted isn't groundbreaking horror, but it's very solid and one heck of a good time. For a first feature film, this is excellent work and those who have soured on the idea of first person horror take note. Lee and Prowse do the subgenre right. Highly entertaining and definitely recommended.
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