With their ambition declared from the outset to create “the world’s greatest video travelogue ever,” under a montage of travel photos bestest buddies Clif and Derek introduce themselves and their plan to travel the globe recording their adventures and uploading the videos to their website, yet their determination masks impending tragedy. Diagnosed with a cerebral arteriovenous malformation, Derek knows that he may be living on borrowed time, explaining to the camera “If I’m going to see the world, I kind of have to go right now.”
After their obligatory farewell party farewell the trip starts in Barcelona, the Clif and Derek modus operandi chafing the boundaries of hip and cool they strive to breach, as annoying as anyone who has their own You Tube channel, but as they move on to Paris it becomes apparent the film is about watching other people having fun. A degree of healthy confidence is necessary to make any film, but obsessed with their own importance, Clif and Derek would be better developed as interesting characters than wacky, and in glorious Italy it is clear that the scenery is more interesting than either character.
But it is there in Vernazza that the aftermath of their previous adventures catch up with them, the girl Derek met in a Paris club who attacked him and ran leaving him bloodied and semi-conscious, Derek now becoming increasingly ill. Unable to eat and with his skin blistering yet displaying enormous strength, speed and stamina, Derek is resistant to visiting a hospital for fear he will either be sent home to America or worse, held against his will, and while he wants to see how far his powers will grow Clif’s concerns are for the health of his friend.
Written and directed by the duo of Derek Lee and Clif Prowse who play fictionalised versions of themselves, despite the decision to present it as found footage for a low budget horror Afflicted is technically superior to the majority of such offerings, with excellent use of sound and physical effects and especially commendable for the kinetic camerawork, swooping from building to pavement and back up again, but it is in support of a story so pedestrian it may as well have stayed on the elegant cobbled pavements beneath the continental architecture.
Even Lee’s impressive physical performance cannot hide that much of the film is spent staggering around in shadows with a camcorder like every other found footage film, the forced honesty and intimacy of his intended farewell direct to camera as obvious a contrivance as the earlier obligatory scene explaining cameras and lenses, the film wasting time justifying its existence rather than moving forwards.
Any film must have an element of believability, found footage most particularly as it asks the viewer to forsake the artifice and accept the fiction, but arriving back in Paris without any of his belongings or funds to replace them Derek‘s multiple cameras are still charged and functioning, as is the mobile phone conveniently left behind in his hotel room by the mysterious Audrey twenty days after she dropped it.
The appeal of found footage to a low budget filmmaker is obvious; supposedly composed of material which has not been crafted by professional cameramen with no need for an elaborate lighting setup, set decoration or even obvious composition of shots, it should be a genuinely raw and honest cinematic experience, a document of events which have purportedly happened, and so requires little of the financial and physical resources or preparation of a major motion picture, yet as with all tools in the hands of the masses it has become a cul-de-sac of the creatively challenged who hope they will be seen as innovative when in fact they are following the herd to the slaughterhouse.
While the characters aren’t as boorish and repellent as some in found footage films, the action scenes are competently choreographed and Derek’s transformation is convincingly creepy, these factors are insufficient to cover the failings elsewhere. Like their planned video travelogue, the film has nothing to set it apart or engage the viewer, predictable events with no connection to the audience, generic characters playing out a drama seen a dozen times in any given year, but it is to be hoped that this acts as a calling card for Lee and Prowse to develop their obvious talents on a more developed future project.
Afflicted was previewed at FrightFest at the Glasgow Film Festival and is currently awaiting British distribution