Love at first bite

Found footage flick Afflicted proves vampirism is an STI

You’ll be forgiven if you think Afflicted is a ’90s rap metal album and not in fact a rather clever and nasty horror flick. It opens with best pals Cliff and Derek deciding to take a break from the grinding pressures of their nine-to-five schedules for a lengthy round-the-world trip. Actor-writer-director pair Clif Prowse and Derek Lee use their real names in the film (though according to IMDb Clif’s inexplicably added another “f” to his character’s name) and the videotape footage shows that they are in fact pals in real life. Derek has a more pressing reason for the trip however. His doctor has recently told him that the painful intermittent headaches he’s been experiencing are symptoms of a stroke-in-the-making twist of vascular blood vessels.

The duo heads to Barcelona for an initial round of sightseeing and hard partying caught on video by Cliff with a collection of body-mounted cameras. The resulting film is presented as an edited version of these videos via online blog entries. (Yes it’s one of those first-person shaky-cam flicks.) The film sets itself up somewhere between a mockumentary and a slow-burn horror flick of the Wolf Creek variety letting us become homey with the characters before unleashing some kind of awfulness on them.

It doesn’t take long for that to happen. After arriving in Paris Derek meets a foxy French woman who’s game for a one-night stand. He chooses poorly awaking with an ugly chunk of bitten-off flesh missing from his arm. Things get even nastier as Derek quickly succumbs to the poisonous bite. He vomits up his dinner pulls out his eyeballs and descends into hours-long spazzy and comatose states. It’s not all bad however; along with the ickiness comes super-heroic strength and agility.

The film races to the finish but occasionally grinds the gears between transitions; what feels like the beginnings of yet another body horror flick (thankfully it isn’t) becomes a version of the film Chronicle by way of a monster movie. Derek quickly realizes that the woman gave him a serious case of the French herpes also known as vampirism. He’s a much creepier creation than the typical baroque vampire looking more like the ghoulish creatures in 30 Days of Night .

The need for rich fresh plasma leads him to make all kinds of desperate and terrible decisions all caught on camera by Cliff. I’m pretty sure there was a quick title letting the audience know that the pair has stopped posting these details online; a necessary detail as Interpol would be on them quicker than they eventually are. Derek’s bloodlust leads to some nifty set pieces with him hopping between buildings and punching people down the block. All of which are delivered in the first-person; your enjoyment or barfy lack thereof will depend on your tolerance for the approach.

It’s unfortunate as many of the more compelling scenes like a daytime escape from French police where Derek needs to hide in the shadows (sunlight kills vampires remember) are experienced like game play from a first-person shooter. A later showdown with a French SWAT team is the same: a trick meant to scare and disorient the audience is just in the end disorienting. Other than jettisoning the initial plot hook (posting an online travel blog) like a lot of found footage-styled movies nothing would be lost by making this a traditionally filmed flick.

Derek realizes his fate rests with the woman who bit him and he returns to France looking for answers and hopefully a cure. (I wouldn’t hold my breath; the film is called Afflicted after all.) The eventual resolution of the plot is a lot like that old Tales from the Crypt episode “The Reluctant Vampire.”

Most vampire flicks are caught up in plot machinations and Afflicted offers an interesting take on the inner psychology behind such a beast before it succumbs to Resident Evil theatrics. Horror fans looking for a quicker nastier take on the vampire mythos however will find a lot to love.