Afflicted ★★★½

A Canadian, found-footage horror film that works well despite the cheats of its stylistic gimmick, Derek Lee and Cliff Prowse's "Afflicted" is a sharp and exciting piece of work. Leaning closer to Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's "[Rec]" than Ti West's "Sacrament," the film might suffer from the usual inconsistencies of the found-footage format; but those inconsistencies are soundly canceled out by the use of the format to record first-person point-of-view horror. It all results in something effectively spirited, violent, and spooky.

"Afflicted" revolves around two men traveling through Europe when one has a fateful encounter with a local woman. The man suffers a host of post-encounter physical changes until becoming something both preternatural and monstrous. His chest-mounted camera captures his progression from man to creature with first-person urgency and glitch-framed clarity. It is a classic horror tale told with a surprisingly smartly utilized storytelling gimmick.

Lee and Prowse cast themselves in the leads roles and interact naturally and easily with each other. Their digitally shot film moves quickly but allows situations and characters to develop solidly before horror conventions kick in. When the film reveals its endgame, it becomes a freshly visualized and violent take on a well-known monstrosity.

The found-footage gimmick has mostly outworn its welcome as a storytelling device, but, regardless, "Afflicted" makes the most of it. A compellingly told, energetically rendered, and satisfyingly jolting horror film, "Afflicted" can not outrun the limitations of its format; it does, however, generate solid thrills, respectable jolts, and a dose of effective atmosphere.

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