If there's possibly a more overused genre than "found-footage horror" flicks, it's the glut of vampire movies we've seen over the past decade or so. So I know your reaction to hearing that Afflicted is a found-footage vampire flick is to avoid it. But all you'd be avoiding is a damn fine film.
Two friends decide to take a year-long vacation, traveling through Europe and Asia. Clif is the filmmaker who plans on documenting his travel with his buddy Derek, but the film gives their spurious adventure a bit of needed emotional heft because Derek has a vessel in his brain that could pop at any time; this trip isn't just about him living well in his remaining time, Clif's films will be as much a remembrance of Derek as a chronicle of their travels.
Of course, Derek manages to meet a lady named Audrey in a bar in Paris, and bring her back her back to their hotel room. Clif, along with two friends from a lo-fi band touring in Europe, sneak back into the room with the goal of diabolically cockblocking him — but discover Derek unconscious and wounded. And thus the adventure truly begins.
To say any more about what happens would simply to be to describe the found footage, which is most of the movie's fun. But Afflicted does so many things right that so many of these movies get wrong — first and foremost, it makes the cameras make sense. The movie shows Clif as not just a filmmaker but an equipment junkie, who's brought a special harness that allows him to mount multiple cameras, providing a first-person view. No more wondering why people don't drop the camera when something insane is happening! Moreover, when someone is holding a camera and something insane happens, they set it down. Seemingly haphazardly, but always cunningly to leave the action just in frame.
That's the subtle part of Afflicted's talents; the un-subtle part is how fantastically staged some of the action is. Suffice it to say, there's an action scene in the third-act that made my jaw drop, not just for what was happening on screen, but because of how brilliantly it was staged. The filmmakers Derek Lee and Clif Prowse — who are playing their namesakes, natch — make full use of the first-person camera and the environment to create some damned impressive entertainment. Speaking of, the first-person rig keeps the action front-and-center without resorting to shaky-cam, and it's so, so appreciated.
Just as importantly, Afflicted doesn't trade in the usual "OH IS THAT A GHOST IN THE CORNER NOW IT'S GONE" shocks; it's a horror film like An American Werewolf in London is a horror film, or The Fly. It's about what happens to Derek and Clif, how they deal with the bizarre occurrences that beset them. Sometimes it's with humor, sometimes it's with shock, and sometimes it's horror. But in the end, Derek's illness brings some pretty horrendous consequences for both of them, in the natural world and the supernatural world alike.
Afflicted isn't perfect — some of the acting can get a bit dodgy, and the movie uses the Blade/Underworld-ish super-powered model of vampirism, which I can see some people disliking; however, while it does seem a bit goofy in the beginning, it definitely pays off down the line, again, thanks to how marvelously they use the "found-footage" conceit.
And I don't care how much you think you're tired of vampire movies or found-footage movies, Afflicted is definitely worth your time. The movie is getting a real release in Canada today, April 4th, as well as a limited release in the U.S., and should be on VOD as well (but make sure you don't actually order the 2010 film The Afflicted, which is exactly as mediocre a horror film as you thought Afflicted was going to be, until I corrected you.)