Nope, I’m not talking about that sparkly guy who fell desperately in love with the human female version of Eeyore. (I’m still human; oh bother.) What I’m talking about is far better and much more epic. I often dig through the bowels of the internet for something off beat and off Broadway, so to speak. Theatrical horror movies are fine, but the unsung heroes I find are the ones that are much more beautiful in nature, despite their meager budgets. They make you think. They make you imagine more realistic possibilities. They make you kind of glad that you never owned a passport.
Afflicted (2013), both directed by and starring Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, is a found footage style film that follows the exploits of friends Derek (Derek Lee) and Clif (Clif Prowse) as they begin their journey to travel the world and create a web series entitled Ends of the Earth. The two have been friends since childhood, with Clif following his dreams to become a film maker and documentarian, and Derek giving up his life of carefree travelling to take a practical job in IT. Derek, however, has recently discovered that he has an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal connection of veins and arteries in the brain which causes bleeding, aneurisms, and potentially death if ruptured. He begins the documentary by explaining that he doesn’t want his last days to be spent in hospitals and sick beds, and instead wants to travel the world one last time, while he is still well enough to do so.
The two begin their journey in Spain moving on quickly to Paris, where they meet up with musician friends, Unalaska, performing in some local clubs. The four joke that they’d like Derek to have a rumpus fling with a smoking hot French girl, and Clif even encourages him to lead with “I have a brain aneurism” as a means of guilting someone into spending the night with him. The ploy works, and Derek meets a stunningly beautiful woman named Audrey in a club whilst his musician friends perform on stage. At the end of the night, Derek has taken the woman back to their quarters, and the three remaining friends, in true brotherhood fashion, decide to burst in on him as a prank. What they find is not the wild sex scene that they expected.
The girl from the club is nowhere to be seen. Derek is unconscious on the bed, and bleeding from both his head and his shoulder. He can’t remember what occurred, only that he had been struck in the head. Considering the delicate condition of Derek’s brain, Clif pleads with him to go to the hospital, but Derek refuses. He patches himself up in the bathroom, and insists that they continue their journey.
The two move on to Italy, where Derek proceeds to sleep…a lot. Clif explores alone for a couple of days before awakening Derek and demanding that he come and enjoy the scenery with him. The two go to a local eatery on the water for some lunch. Derek, though starving, takes one bite of his food and can’t stomach it. He vomits profusely all over the floor of the restaurant. Clif is again concerned for his friend, wanting him to see a doctor about the trauma that he experienced in Paris. Derek again refuses, stating that it was likely just food poisoning that made him sick. The following day, while the two are visiting with a winery owner, Derek suffers agonizing burns in the direct sunlight, and has to take immediate shelter in a nearby shed.
The friends are both perplexed at the physical changes that are taking place within Derek. But the more they discover, they take to it like many men would – with total glee. Derek can run abnormally fast. He can break massive rocks without suffering so much as a bruise. He can see now without his contacts, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Derek is a superhero! They take to the streets and film everything with the carefree nature of little boys wearing capes and wielding wooden swords.
This glee is short lived, however, as the hunger in Derek increases. They try everything: dead animals, live animals, blood from a bank. To their horror, they discover that the blood must be fresh, and it must be human. Avoiding the cravings as long as possible, Derek goes into what can only be described as a horrifying vampiric version of diabetic ketoacidosis. He loses control and commits a monstrous crime.
Desperate to find a way to reverse this virus, Derek sets out to find Audrey and demand how he can make this stop. When he finally tracks her down, she hits him with the hard truth. There is no cure; there is no death. His infection was a mistake on her part, but what he is now is what he will always be. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes when Derek asks her why she chose him. Her simple answer: “You were dying. I thought I was being kind.”
This movie has such a fresh and raw take on vampirism. Many of the classic elements are there, but they are subdued by what I think might actually happen if two friends began to discover these strange symptoms. The film barely uses the word “vampire” – I think it’s spoken maybe once – and instead focuses on the journey that Derek is taking throughout his transformation, both awesome and terrible. The audience can deduce that Derek is becoming a vampire simply from his range of physical symptoms. But the creature’s title itself is wholly irrelevant.
Additionally, of course, anyone reading my articles knows by now how much I love a good conception story, and this film certainly has one. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse have been friends for quite some time, and wrote and directed this movie together as a project with money that they raised themselves. No fancy investors, no pre-film promises. Just two buds and a shit ton of cameras. That combo always makes for the best outcome in my book. There is a plethora of takes on the vampire character, and Afflicted may not be for everyone. But if you are curious, I encourage you to check this movie out and see what you think. And while you’re at it, beware of hot French girls in the night.