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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/1/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/24/2014
Even if you hate the found-footage horror sub-genre with every fiber of your being, you've probably hoped that someone would inject some new life into it instead of simply trying to make the same old junk seem cool. For some reason, I've seen a lot of these movies and they all blend together after a while. Yes, there have been some exceptions, such as Cloverfield, but a lot of them simply look like the home movies which they are pretending to be. Afflicted takes things in the opposite direction -- It's a found-footage movie which doesn't want to look like one, which is certainly intriguing. Unfortunately, the script doesn't have the same ambitions.
Real-life friends Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee star as themselves in Afflicted. After years of making home-grown movies together, they have decided to embark on their project. They are going to travel the globe and document the entire thing for their video blog, despite protests from Derek's family. Derek has recently been diagnosed with a rare brain disorder, so this may be their last chance to do something like this. They first visit Spain and then move on to France, where they meet some old friends. There, Derek takes a woman back to his hotel room and when Cliff returns, he finds his friend bloody and injured. Soon afterwards, Derek begins to go through some changes. He is suddenly super strong and fast, as well as having the ability to leap to great heights. At first, these changes seem like a fun novelty, but the two friends will soon learn that the truth is much darker.
Just as portrayed in the film, Prowse and Lee really are old friends who have been making short films together for years. They decided that it was time to make a feature film and Afflicted is the result. At the outset, the entire thing feels like a real documentary, and that effect is boosted by the footage of Prowse and Lee acting in their own home movies. And the fact that they are playing themselves (at first) also helps to drive home that sense of realism. Nearly every found-footage movie has wanted us to believe that it was real, but this is the first one to actually succeed. The graphics used for the blog also lends a sense of reality to all of this, and it's easy to imagine that this is something which we could watch on YouTube.
The documentary feel draws us into the film and the sense of mystery introduced at the end of the first act helps to hold our attention. We're not sure what happened to Derek, save for the fact that he was injured. When he begins to show off his newfound abilities, the movie certainly takes an immediate turn into a new genre. What had felt very real, now feels more like a fiction movie, but the use of the handheld camera and the way in which Prowse and Lee remain in character really helps the movie. They are attempting to find out what has happened to Derek and we are right there with them.
But, things begin to fall apart in the second half of the movie. The scenes in which Derek experiments with his powers using a found-footage approach will bring up the inevitable comparisons to 2012'sChronicle, and that argument is a very valid one. If you've seen that movie, it will pop into your head as you are watching this. However, things really go downhill once we learn what is wrong with Derek. I'm not going to give it away here, but suffice it to say that it's a very old and unoriginal idea, and it's this which derails the film permanently. Comparison's to Chronicle aside, the first half of the film took a very fresh approach to found footage, but most of that good will evaporates in the second half when the truth is revealed. It can argued that the movie still attempting to put a fresh spin on this old subject, but that doesn't change the fact that the pedestrian nature of the story itself drags the film down. This mis-step in the story-telling is truly unfortunate, as the movie continues to show very creative camera-work and a showdown with the police is very well-shot.
As a calling-card to the industry, I'm sure that Afflicted will work out will for Prowse and Lee. The movie shows some creativity in story-telling and a great deal of ingenuity with camera-work. I was somewhat surprised by how the movie didn't shy away from gore and those who have been waiting for a truly R-rated found footage movie will find something to like here. Overall, Afflicted is a disappointment, but it's certainly worth checking out, if for nothing else then to see that someone is still trying to breath life into found footage.
Afflicted made me think twice about traveling to Europe on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials -- save for the sort of kind of static and rolling seen in these films. The clarity of the image adds to the film's slick look. The colors look very good and the image rarely gets too dark. The depth is very good and the level of detail really adds to the impressive look. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are detailed and highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The surround sound effects are nearly constant in certain scenes, and do a great job of placing us in the action, most notably during the police fight scene. The subwoofer effects aren't as prevalent, but they really add to the action sequences.
The Afflicted Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Behind the Scenes of Afflicted" (4 minutes) is an interview with Prowse and Lee who briefly describe their background and how the film was developed. They then talk about how they achieved some of the effects on such a low budget. "Anatomy of a Scene: The Window Jump" (3 minutes) shows how a specific moment from the film, which contains many intricate stunts, was done. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. These are three brand-new scenes, all of which involve Derek and his condition.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long