Your first thought will be ‘another bloody found footage movie?’ Stay with it, it’s a pretty inventive take on a very old cinematic trope.
Best friends Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, playing themselves, are finally setting off on the trip of a lifetime around the world. In the party atmosphere opening scenes we see the guys celebrating and planning all their adventures and their intention to film and document the whole thing to give Clif the experience he wants as a filmmaker.
There’s one sombre note when Derek explains how a series of headaches not long before led to a potentially life threatening neurological condition, and how it’s cemented his desire to see the world even more while he has the chance.
The first act is the guys enjoying themselves, meeting friends in Paris and trying to encourage Derek to hook up with a girl. When he does and they conspire to burst into the room to surprise the couple in flagrante delicto, they instead find Derek alone and seriously injured.
After awhile he seems okay, unable to remember what happened, and he and Clif try to move on. But Derek’s decidedly not okay. All of a sudden he wants to spend all day in bed even though they’re in an idyllic Italian ocean town, and when he finally gets his appetite back and starts to wolf down a plate of pasta he ends up violently vomiting it across the restaurant floor.
He quickly goes from that to running faster than a car and jumping to fourth floor balconies feeling invincible, and one of ”Afflicted”’s smarter aspects is that it doesn’t spell out exactly what’s happening to Derek all at once. You might guess it earlier than others but as soon as it’s obvious, the film has the serious challenge of coming up with a new reason for the story and overcoming the inherently fatal flaw found within every movie of the footage conceit.
The usual (and lazy) way around it is for someone to say ‘for God’s sake put that camera down’ and someone else to say ‘no, people need to know the truth about what happened here’. Every found footage movie has to battle to get as far away from that as possible and convince us the characters have a good reason to keep filming.
”Afflicted” doesn’t even really try. Derek picks up the camera after Clif’s shocking premature exit from the film and explains that he intends to film everything to finish Clif’s project and honour his memory.
The other chink in the armour is the exposition. As co-writers and co-directors, neither Lee nor Prowse seem skilled enough to deliver the backstory or character intent with any more subtlety than to have Lee look straight into the camera and say ‘so I guess if I want to [CHARACTER MOTIVATION] I have to [PLOT DEVELOPMENT], right?’ When he does so, Lee’s not a good enough actor to pull it off.
But it’s a cool idea, mostly well executed, and just when you thought this movie stalwart couldn’t possibly get any more mileage, here two Canadian guys go and make up another fresh approach.