Originally released in 2013, Afflicted is a found-footage movie that despite its flaws remains a solid entry into the vampire genre. Although there are the usual quibbles inherent with the found-footage genre, as well as the fact that Afflicted is in essence and other “vampire flick,” the movie nevertheless does work effectively and does spark some moments of horror, as well as genuine pathos derived from the characters and their plight.
The story centers on friends Derek (Derek Lee) and Clif (Clif Prowse), who are planning to take the trip of a lifetime to explore the world while making a web travelogue titled “Ends of the Earth.” But just as the two are getting ready to set off, Derek learns that he is suffering from a brain condition that could kill him any day. Ironically (as viewers will see later), this condition consists of an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins of the brain. Despite this initial affliction, Derek elects on moving forward with the trip, with Clif reluctantly agreeing.
During a stop in Paris, France, Clif and Derek meet with some friends who are currently on tour as a band. Hanging out that evening, Derek apparently gets lucky, cozying down with an exotic girl named Audrey (Baya Rehaz). That night, Derek confesses to Audrey that he is deathly ill and the two engage in sex.
The following morning, Derek and his buds discover Derek unconscious and bleeding, with Audrey nowhere to be found. Despite his injuries (which heal quickly) and the fact the he has no memory of what happened, Derek insists that the trip continue, so the two head off to Italy. It is while the pair is in Italy that Derek begins to experience his new affliction. The symptoms are instantly recognizable to fans of the vampire genre: a voracious appetite but not for food (Derek throws it up), an aversion to sunlight, incredible strength and stamina, and unbelievable agility.
The bulk of the movie follows Derek as he begins his transformation into a creature of the night. Derek valiantly resists drinking blood, trying various ways to satiate his all-consuming thirst. Eventually, it is Clif who slits his own wrist to save his friend from a catatonic state. Derek then flees, with Clif giving chase. When Clif finally finds Derek, the now fully realized vampire drains Clif of his blood. Realizing what he has done, Derek attempts to kill himself with a shotgun to no avail.
Derek then decides to track down the source of his affliction, which leads to a confrontation with Audrey, who apologizes for infecting him and says that she was trying to be “kind” (no doubt because of Derek’s original affliction). Like Audrey, Derek elects to feed only on scum (criminals, child molesters, and the like), making sure that he kills, lest that victim become a vampire. A coda during the credits sequence shows that Clif is also now a vampire, but that he has yet to learn how to control his insatiable hunger.
Afflicted is a good vampire yarn told from one who has been recently turned. This street-level interpretation makes for solid storytelling, as the clichés are given new life. More importantly, the story eschews the romantic crap associated with vampirism and instead shows the affliction as gritty, violent, insatiable, and horrific. The stars of the movie, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, are not very good actors, although Lee has better chops. The duo is much better as the film’s writers and directors. The screenplay is very good, save for the final scare (Clif’s vampirism), and the direction works well. The usual found-footage errors and some shaky camera work are distracting, but most of the film is really engaging and at times hypnotic. The range of emotions experienced by the characters, from awe and excitement to horror and sadness, make this film more than just another vampire yarn. Helping things along are some great special and makeup effects that sell the nature of the affliction.
Afflicted won the Best Canadian First Feature Film citation at the Toronto International Film Festival (2013) and the Best Director Award from the Austin Fantastic Fest (2013). Fans wanting to move away from the modern vampire story to instead experience vampires at their feral best would do well to watch Afflicted. The movie may have some minor flaws, but it does present one hell of a descent into the world of vampirism.