By Kiva Reardon
“Men in their 20s are the worst thing happening on our planet,” said comedian Rob Delaney; given the evidence of Afflicted, the debut feature from Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, the same could be said of cinema. A horror film that unfortuntately lacks any real dread, gore or suspense, Afflicted follows filmmaking buddies Derek and Clif (played by Lee and Prowse) on a National Lampoon-style Euro-trip. This month-long getaway is a carpe diem affair, as Derek has been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm; seeking catharsis, Clif plans to film the entire adventure, which is presented to us complete with onscreen doodles, split-screens and insert shots of YouTube comments. (No indication of who is editing it all together). The vacation soon takes a turn for the worse when Derek gets strangely sick after a bloody and bitey (hint) encounter with a sexy Parisian (the only woman, be it noted, with a speaking part in the film).
For the first five minutes or so, Afflicted could almost pass as a parody of the found-footage genre, taking both the now-overused format and the culturally omnipresent spectacle of bro-bonding to exaggerated lengths. But this is no experiment in excess: it’s merely two guys strapping GoPros on their chests, jumping off of things, and calling it meta-cinematic. A generous reading might say that, given its neo-epistolary form, the film is a logical extension of the original vampire tale, Bram Stoker’s Dracula; with email and social media as the new form of letter-writing, chronicling the creation of a monster through these mediums would indeed be the most literal modern update. But even then, so what? There’s no beauty or inspiration in the film’s shooting style, and most importantly, no terror. If this is “ingenious” horror filmmaking, as the programme note suggests, get me off this planet.