When first time directors come out of the gate this strong, its one of the most powerful viewings to witness.
Clif Prowse and Derek Lee just made a bold statement with their film "Afflicted." This is a movie that I have been wildly excited to see ever since early reviews during its festival run became public. Tonight, it had its major American release and I could not be happier. Sometimes, to follow the hype train can lead to disappointment, but not here. "Afflicted" is a film everybody should sample, specifically those who love horror and action films at primal level. Somebody quite like the author of this review.
What makes "Afflicted" instantly addictive from the beginning is how personal the film feels. Not only did Clif Prowse and Derek Lee write and direct the film, they are also the two leads behind the film. The duo even goes so far as to play fictional versions of themselves. In the movie, Clif and Derek have been best friends for a long time, and they are getting ready to go a year-long trip around the world. Clif plays a filmmaker who will document the entire trip and post videos on his web-blog, and Derek is a travel junkie along for the ride. We learn that Clif and Derek have been lifelong friends, and the footage we see of them is footage of the real Clif and Derek growing up. The personal feeling of the film gives it a unique edge, and the audience almost instantly identifies with these two buddies. There is a slight problem with Derek though, he has a brain aneurysm that could be drastic if he is not close to home, but Derek feels like he has to go. He's the type of free spirit that wants as many life memories as possible. One night in Paris, France, Clif is trying to get Derek to hook up with a girl. Derek meets the beautiful and seemingly innocent Audrey (Baya Rehaz) and Derek hits it off with her quick. By the end of the night, Clif knows he got a room with Audrey and he plans to crash their alone time with two of his buddies along for the trip. What they find in the hotel room is a bloodied Derek with Audrey nowhere to be found.
The rest of the film can only be described as a blending of 2012's "Chronicle" and 1981's "An American Werewolf In London." The film is structured with a slow-burn but everything pays-off as Derek begins to come to terms with his abilities. At first, this movie may seem like an action-adventure, comedy that is just a little stranger than usual. But when things get bad for Clif and Derek, oh man, they get bad. Its astounding how quickly and how effortless the film becomes a horrifying thriller. It is equally astounding how effective devices like boo-scares are. When it comes to horror films, boo-scares have never had an effect on me. While watching "Afflicted" I had to watch most scenes through my hands, always the sure sign of a creepy, creepy movie. Plus, the point-of-view camera angles only enriches the power of the scares.
Clif Prowse and Derek Lee both proved that not only can they direct and write, but they can both also act. Even if neither of them sat in the director's chair again, I would hope they would take advantage of an acting career, because both of them could be real power players. Chemistry isn't really something to speak of since both of these guys were friends prior to shooting, and they basically play versions of themselves. But Clif Prowse's character work is some of the best "best friend" acting in movies. Derek Lee will definitely emerge as the film's star though. He gets the meaty role, he gets all of the best scenes and he absolutely crushes it. Plus, I got to give both men props for creating some of the best make-up designs for a modern horror film. It made the movie that much creepier.
I know all of you are probably seeing "Captain America: The Winter Solider" for the second time tonight. You can bet that I will be posting a review for that one as soon as I possibly can. But I hope you all take some time out of this weekend to see some of the lesser treasures film has to offer. "Afflicted" is a great example of two newbies creating an unbelievable experience and it also works in terms of horror and action. As much as I love the mainstream, I also am very passionate about the smaller stuff that gets released every weekend. "Afflicted" is something to watch with a few friends over with the lights out, just to see you squeals the loudest. I can only hope that "Afflicted" is the beginning for a lengthy and interesting career for both Clif Prowse and Derek Lee.
FINAL GRADE: A-