Melbourne International Film Festival 2014

Afflicted, MIFF 2014

0 Comments 07 August 2014

It’s easy to feel like the horror genre is getting a bit worn out. As part of the Night Shift section of MIFF, vampire flick Afflicted looks to bring the found footage genre into the 21st Century, with social media and impressive special effects taking centre stage. First time directors Derek Lee and Clif Prowse also star in the film, which sets itself up as a travel movie gone disastrously wrong.

After a life marred by the specter of a brain aneurysm, Derek and childhood friend Clif decide to break free of routine and travel the world. The pair take a very Gen-Y approach to documenting their adventure, placing reams of Go-Pro footage on a blog called ‘Ends of the Earth’. True to form, nothing is left out of their travel diary, with skydiving in Barcelona and their attempts at pulling women both published for the world to see.

On the Parisian leg of their tour, Derek’s eagerness to get laid is on full display, soon meeting the mysterious Audrey (Baya Rehaz) and taking her back to his hotel. However, on returning to their accommodation, Clif finds Derek bloodied and feverish, with no recollection of the evening’s events. Pushing on through Italy, the evidence that Derek has changed becomes abundantly clear. Half played for laughs, Derek now projectile vomits any human food he ingests, and his skin viscerally blisters when he steps into the sun. Clif and Derek begin running nighttime tests to confirm the unbelievable diagnosis – vampirism.

Once their European travels take a turn for the supernatural, their blog becomes an online chronicle of how it can all go so wrong. Clif keeps the cameras rolling, even as Derek begins to fray at the edges without access to fresh blood. Seeing only one viable option, Derek goes in search of Audrey for both answers and an antidote.

It’s easy to assume that the ‘found footage’ genre has reached the absolute end of its lifespan. But with the clever inclusion of social media, and our obsession with endlessly documenting our lives, Afflicted has attempted something different in a very cut-and-dry category. Prowse and Lee’s focus on modernity is obvious from the quality of the special effects. When Derek’s skin horrifyingly blisters in the sun, it’s impossible not to recoil in terror, because of how authentic it seems.

Prowse and Lee seem to take this realist approach to every aspect of the film, particularly in how the protagonists deal with Derek’s newfound skills. While doing test jumps off buildings may seem fantastical and insane, it’s typical of Gen-Y, pushing the boundaries and living by the YOLO mantra. Afflicted is ultimately a realistic depiction of two 20-somethings who are completely in over their heads, testing the waters as they go along.

However, Prowse and Lee don’t escape the genre’s clichés completely. Their only female character, Audrey, has little substance and is more a plot device than anything else. Further, while the reactions of the characters are often realistic, it’s difficult to sympathize wholly with them. We’re gleeful to see the terror occurring, but less so when listening to Derek and Clif’s lengthy monologues about how and why it’s happening and what they prophesise might happen next.

It’s not a perfectly constructed film script-wise, but Afflicted has enough bite to keep horror fans wondering what’s around the corner. While Afflicted is not particularly complex or thoughtful, it is enjoyable enough for its visual effects and twists on ‘found-footage’ clichés.

3/5 stars

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This post was written by who has written 2 posts on Buzzcuts.

Ashleigh McMillan is an RMIT Journalism student and avid film watcher. She once spread Vegemite all over a garden gate, in order to visually represent her vitriolic hatred of the stuff. She has very strong opinions.

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