‘Afflicted’ (2013) Movie Review – Toronto Film Festival

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Afflicted movie review
Derek Lee in Afflicted
Photo: CBS Films

Afflicted establishes itself as an MTV-esque travelogue as directors and stars Derek Lee and Clif Prowse (playing themselves) prepare to travel the world for a year and do whatever their audience suggests. Part of the reasoning behind the trip is because Derek is suffering from an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in his brain and instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself he wants to make sure to live each and every day to its fullest. Clif is a wannabe filmmaker and documentarian so he packs up the gear and it’s off to Barcelona, where trouble soon befalls our two adventurers.

Things don’t go awry until Clif and a couple of friends make way for Paris where Derek finds a connection with a girl whom he takes back to his room. As the night wears on, Derek’s friends think it’s time to barge in on the fun, but upon entering his room they find Derek unconscious and bleeding with what looks like a bite mark on his left shoulder. He awakes, seemingly okay. Soon the travelogue turns into a video documenting Derek’s progress as he begins showing signs he’s becoming a vampire. Yes, it’s a vampire film and at 85 minutes it’s about an hour too long.

The visual and makeup effects are on par with a film such as Chronicle, which I couldn’t help but think of as Derek first finds out he’s gaining strength, speed and a variety of other abilities during his transformation. For a second I actually thought Derek was going to become some sort of vampire superhero, and I guess, in a way, he sort of does… sort of.

With the help of a good editor, Afflicted could be cut down to about 20 minutes or so and serve as a satisfying short in another V/H/S film if they make one. There’s a perfect moment where it could end at what must be around the 30 minute mark in the current cut (I didn’t check my watch), but with all the nonsense packed onto the final hour, and the way they keep the found footage concept alive it only gets worse and worse as it goes along.

Lee and Prowse are hardly talented actors and I can understand going the found footage route to keep costs down, but the cat is sort of out of the bag on this genre. As a short film this would have worked because then you’re not subjecting an audience to all the smoke and mirrors that comes with attempting an effective found footage feature. How many times do I need to see the light from the camcorder illuminating just a small portion of the night only so something just off screen can attempt to frighten me? Here it’s done at least three times, each worse than the next.

Afflicted is a small concept thriller that attempted to fake its way into becoming a feature film, but there just isn’t enough story to sustain 45 minutes let alone this movie’s miniscule 85 minute running time. About a third of the way through the film should have ended, it had run its course and could have come to a close with a satisfying, creepy and freakishly humorous conclusion as Derek proves killing himself is not the answer to his newfound vampire affliction. As the scene in question came to pass, the film faded to black and I thought to myself they had actually salvaged a film that was starting to go off the rails only to find out they weren’t looking to merely derail a few cars, but the entire train.

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Weekend: Dec. 12, 2019, Dec. 15, 2019

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