Afflicted — Film Review

Film ReviewNoelKrista

Noel: I was surprised to see that Afflicted was a vampire movie. From the trailer I gathered that it was going to be a contagion film. Vampires and pestilence share a common history but I was thinking 28 Days Later (2002) rather than The Addiction (1995). Unfortunately, despite finding it entertaining, it hardly broke any new ground in terms of vampire lore. Apart from its use of shaky-cam film-making, we’ve seen it all before.

Krista: Speaking of vampire lore—one highlight for me was the ill-fitting conversation referencing ‘traditional’ vampire lore (‘Well you should have the ability to turn into mist.’) which contrasted with that attempted ‘realist’ style. I’m actually impressed that they didn’t fall into the usual US stereotyping and made it happen in some ‘mysterious’ backwoods of ‘Old Europe’, but chose Paris as a hub of civilisation.

N: However the filmmakers still kept the vampire at arms’ length, making the monster foreign. As you pointed out, it’s not Transylvania or the Yorkshire moors; but it’s still an American who got infected by a European.

K: I also liked that despite their attempt to be innovative, they weren’t pretentious and even included traditional jump scares. I liked the first-person perspective (fpp) during the run—kind of game-like.

N: His heightened perception and supra-human powers reminded me of Chronicle (2012). It was fun but I wouldn’t want to watch it again.

K: The film spends a while setting up the friendship, so I’m not sure why it was ended early. It was a brave move and foregrounded isolation but the ending fell flat for me. I was disappointed with the half-hearted fight sequence and the cringe-worthy moralising and sentimentalising. That vigilantism could be an interesting parody and critique of institutionalised ‘justice’, seen in many ‘revenge films’. But here it just brought it back in line with conservative morality.

N: The moralising was a shaky-cam version of Louis in Interview with the Vampire (1995). Even if we had to isolate Derek’s crisis (the main character) and take it for what it was, it’s still not that interesting. It reminded me of a bad Pepsi Max advert, highlighting thrills and shallow been-there-done-that moments. On another note: what do you think about the found footage? Is it overstaying its welcome? I think so. I’m finding it tedious and boring for an entire feature-length film. Get a tripod!

K: I’m surprised that found footage has outlived its ‘novelty’ factor. I was kind of sceptical about that but several films, including V/H/S (2012), have convinced me there’s still life in it. I have three main reasons: (1) its DIY possibilities, which gives a new lease to indie directors without the backing of glossy production; (2) its proximity to some fpp video games—disorientation, chase; (3) it seems to be associated with the horror genre. Other genres borrow it as a device; horror embraces it. I’m not sure why exactly but ‘found text’ is found in horror literature, from Bram Stoker to Mark Z Danielewski, it’s an established device.

N: So, final verdict? I recommend Afflicted if you’re looking for an hour and a half of harmless entertainment. A camp-fire story for the tech-savvy generation.

K: Perhaps more of a ‘teen adult’ horror; it references a horror tradition, but doesn’t add much that’s new, perhaps more rewarding for less ‘seasoned’ horror fans.

Maniac: Two films. Two reviewers.

Film ReviewNoelKrista

Noel: I recently saw William Lustig’s Maniac (1980) and Franck Khalfoun’s 2012 remake back-to-back. The latter is rather faithful to the original’s spirit. Frank Zito (played by Joe Spinell [1980] and Elijah Wood [2012]) is more of a textbook psychopath, and more brutal in Khalfoun’s film; but still remains faithful to its source.

Krista: I thought the first’s ‘rawness’ was more brutal. The second had a polished style despite the first person perspective. The 1980 film was grittier.


N: True. The remake looks slicker. For instance, the murder scenes are meticulously choreographed, operatic even. Lustig’s film is truer to life, scarier too, because in his lucid moments the killer acts normal.

K: The first person perspective didn’t convince me. Eventually I even forgot about it till it suddenly jumped to the fore again. It was inconsistent and uneasy without being very unsettling. It reminded me of Peeping Tom (1960), which made better use of the first person perspective.

N: Agree, but it didn’t distract me.

K: I hoped it would be more ‘distracting’. It would have been preferable if the first person perspective had been more defamiliarising, puncturing the viewer’s comfort zone — rather than just being ‘naturalised’.

N: The subjective point of view didn’t help me to get closer to the killer. I only saw this technique being used effectively in Enter the Void (2009). I find it a bit distracting because it can turn into a weird game (Spot the reflection in the mirror!). That said, in Maniac they were well aware of this and tried to have fun with it. The moments when the film veers away from the first person perspective, it sort of clicks into another gear.

K: Good point about the first person perspective being the default here, and the veering away from it becoming a ‘moment’ in itself. It calls to mind Bret Easton Ellis’ book American Psycho (1991).

N: I liked the fact that the remake created a deeper relationship between Frank and the mannequins. They are more than just a manifestation of his childhood trauma — a dysfunctional, promiscuous mother. The restoration of the mannequins is a genuine labour of love which underscores the affection that he nurtures towards the photographer (Anna, played by Nora Arnezeder). She is a mediocre artist unable to hold her camera properly. Frank is the real deal, getting his hands dirty.

That’s a well-noted criticism of the photographer. In the first movie, I couldn’t really ‘judge’ whether she was a good artist or not — there wasn’t a focus on her art, instead they showed the world she moves around in, which made me think she was a budding artist. In the second one she’s portrayed as an underwhelming artist. She tries to use the mannequins to underpin her art and to somehow appropriate his by projecting an image of her face onto their blank heads.

N: Besides Anna, two other victims in Khalfoun’s film are a dancer and an agent. In both murders the director abandons the first person perspective, suggesting that either Frank is seeing his actions as a form of art, or that we, the audience, should see Frank himself as a work of art.

K: Yes, perhaps even perverting the sublime into the brutally grotesque. Yet ‘getting his hands dirty’ is counterpoised by the film’s stylishness.

N: So which is better?

K: Both films ultimately do different things. This is down to stylistic differences, enjoyably the remake doesn’t try to ‘replace’ Lustig’s film.

N: Totally agree. They’re like brothers sharing one (hell of a disturbed)
mother, similar yet so different.