Starring Derek Lee and Clif Prowse. Rated 14A.
It’s a testament to two Vancouver filmmakers’ talent that they pump such overused genres—the found-footage horror flick and the vampire film—so full of new blood. And yes, gore fans, that’s meant figuratively and literally.
Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, who play themselves in the pseudodocumentary, have enough new tricks up their sleeves to make Afflicted a creepily fun trip. To start, instead of using the low-budget settings associated with flicks like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, they take their show on the road. When Lee is diagnosed with a life-threatening brain condition, the best friends decide to travel the world for a year and document it on a video blog. Cue handheld scenes of partying in Barcelona, Italy’s picturesque Cinque Terre region, and Paris, where Lee starts acting strangely after getting it on with a French club girl.
The international settings lend not only added atmosphere, but huge logistical challenges: in one scene, an Italian ambulance gets commandeered; in another, Lee scales the walls of Vernazza’s pretty plastered buildings. Along with a backpack full of the usual cams, Prowse totes a so-called strap-on recorder that offers up some cool first-person POV shots when Lee becomes “afflicted” with superhuman powers and a driving thirst. No pretty-boy Twilight transformations here: Lee and Prowse are bent on showing vampirism in all its monstrous, gruesome detail—at least, whatever detail you can glimpse in the dark through the shaky light of the handheld cam.
What makes Afflicted work is their mix of impressive long takes and special effects—watch what a chase through the sunlight does to Lee’s skin—with the low-tech video-cam conceit. Yes, the handheld antics will feel familiar, as will Chronicle-like plot points and Blair Witch–style confessionals. But there’s enough heart here, with Lee and Prowse playing off their real-life friendship, and enough scares for this cool little homegrown horror flick to earn cult status.