Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The vampire genre wakes to exciting new life with Clif Prowse and Derek Lee's AFFLICTED; Q&A with these two multi-talented filmmakers

As dead-in-the-water as so many new zombie movies prove, the vampire genre hasn't exactly broken much new ground of late, either. Which makes AFFLICTED, the knock-your-socks-off new film from the Canadian duo Clif Prowse (below, left) and Derek Lee (below, right), all the more noteworthy and exciting.

This exceedingly smart combo of hand-held DIY movie-making and the horror genre proves both shockingly "real" -- this is a brilliant use of "home movies" to create a world of horror and wonder -- and a simply splendid handling of DIY to bypass a big budget and still produce the shock and awe genre fans demand.

Not being a filmmaker myself, TrustMovies doesn't quite understand the technical details of how the pair managed this so well. But they surely have. Beginning with a wonderful planned vacation to be taken by these two best friends, the pair then guides us through the paces of the early stage of that vacation -- with a little surprise tossed into the mix (Derek has a health problem) and then suddenly shifts into a whole new mode when one of our heroes is attacked and left for dead.

Except he's still alive. So he and his partner -- and we -- begin a journey that we've been on many times previous. The magic of this movie is due to how new the filmmakers' journey seems, while still adhering closely to the necessary genre conventions. And the "hand-held" nature of the whole adventure just makes it all the more immediate and scary.

There are times here when your heart will race and you breath will stop because you are so with what's going on that it will seem like you're watching the first movie of your life all over again. The filmmakers keep a nice balance, too, between storytelling, special effects, and effective pacing. Best of all, they save some of their really good stuff for the last so that the finale does not disappoint. In fact, it takes on a whole new idea for the Vampire genre -- one that I think might make an entire movie unto itself (spoiler just ahead): What if vampires chose their victims with an eye toward creating a better world?

In dividing up the work, Mr Lee gets the lead role, and he gives it all he's got (which is plenty). Mr. Prowse, as the "best friend," hangs back and provides support (up to a point). Both men are credited with direction and screenplay, and in the short Q&A below, they seem to answer easily together and for each other.

Although this is one of the few genre films to which I'd welcome a sequel, it seems the guys (see below) want to move on to other things. Well, at least they've given us one hell of go-round here. Afflicted -- another interesting movie from CBS Films, a distributor whose choice of material seems to be getting smarter and better, film by film -- opens this Friday, April 4, in various cities. The film will also be simultaneously available via VOD, and this is a movie that'll look just fine on your living room widescreen TV (that's the way we watched it, in fact.)


Because the interview below contains a heavy spoiler, I'd suggest seeing the film first -- always a good idea -- before reading any more about it (here or elsewhere). In the short phone interview below, TrustMovies appears in boldface, while Prowse (shown below) and Lee (further below) are in standard typeface.

You're Canadians? 

Yep – from Vancouver.

How did the idea of this film first hit you. And which one of you?

We were making short films for about 10 years and decided it was time to make a feature. Initially, it was way too much money for what we wanted to do. So we had to scale down and go back the drawing board and think, "How could we actually do this?"

We thought about different genres: zombies, and some other ones, then we said, How about a vampire documentary? Yes! We knew vampires are so fantasy-based and yet so part of pop culture, so we thought, if we could tell our story through a reality lens, how great would that be?! Something like this might normally cost $5 to $10 million. We knew that Chronicle had cost $15, million. Ours cost, in Canadian dollars, $318,000. We first got a $200,000 grant from the government. so we had to raise $118,000 ourselves.

I’m really impressed with how well the hand-held, Blair Witchiness works with this genre -- making the special effects that much more special because they're so jumpy and odd and unexpected. Did you realize this going into it? And isn't it so much cheaper to create special effects in this manner? 

We figured that this would work well, combining these genres.

As to the cheapness part, we knew we had to be very sparse when we showed stuff on camera. What got us so excited about this movie was to tell a vampire story through a lens of reality, where the very texture of the image is telling your brain, this is real life. So Derek -- running so fast, and lifting the car and all that -- feels like a supernatural event. Yet it is shown in a way that just seems real.

That’s what happens to all of us when we watch a film, but until this one (even considering how effective Chronicle often was), we haven’t gotten it in such a “real-seeming” way. 

My one disappointment: Aren't pedophiles getting awfully tired and over-used as the villains du jour? For the sequel, will you please rid the world of more important problems. Like Republicans. Or maybe climate-change deniers and politicians who want to gut Social Security and food stamps. Please: get brave and current. Or, since you’re Canadians, go after the mayor of Toronto. You can do it! (The guys laugh.)

It’s funny, as a moral choice for the character, we needed to make it an easy choice. So we probably did go the too-easy route. But Cliff and I have talked about the philosophy of who a vampire might choose to kill to keep himself alive. So we did have discussions over this.

How did you decide which character would get killed and which would be the vampire hero?

We always knew that Derek would be the vampire, but he needed to have a foil. "Oh, perfect for Cliff!" That’s how it worked out.

If you don’t do a sequel, what’s next for you? 

We’re looking to do something different next time. Yes, we want to do something more cinematic, that delivers what we have always loved about movies: the chance to use music, dolly shots, and cast actors whom we can direct -- instead of ourselves. We’ve got in mind what we call an action film in a horror world. And it’s also a love story which could be fun. We get to play with everything we love – from the music to the camera to a great story and cast….

Well, good luck with whatever you do, and I wish you great success with this excellent first-full-length feature!

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