March 1, 2012
Leslie Easterbrook as Maggie
J.D. Hart as The Cowboy Prophet
Michelle Gray as Cathy
Sims Holland (Katie Holland) as Carla
Grace narrates a flashback of events that transpired in her family in the last year. The singular villain in her retelling is her mother – Maggie. After killing Hank – the father – for trying to leave her, Maggie stuffs his body in the freezer, before claiming he ran off. She occupies her time with vodka, local evangelical TV and abusing her four children – Carla, Cathy, Grace (the youngest) and Bill (the oldest). When she decides God working through her violent hand isn’t enough to keep the children in line, she resorts to the wooden ‘board of education’. To support the family, Maggie pulls Bill from school and sends him to work for the Cowboy Prophet – a local minister who seeks to be a father figure to the young boy. But his work isn’t enough to pay the bills or support Maggie’s drinking problem, so Maggie whores out young Carla – scarcely 15 – against her wishes to a local john who likes young girls (and the younger the better). Even though Cathy is barely a teenager, Maggie becomes jealous of her pubescent attractiveness and singles her out for the worst punishments. Cathy tries to tell the school counselor, but her complaints fall on deaf ears. Grace attempts to surreptitiously inform the Cowboy Prophet, but fails. Things seem hopeless for Grace and her three siblings… But they things get much, much worse…
With stellar acting and a harsh story of true-to-life horror, The Afflicted grips viewers tightly and refuses to let go. Graphic depictions of psychological and physical abuse, coupled with sadistic behavior clothed in a mother’s love will keep mouths slightly sprung and viewers hopeful that justice will find Maggie. At times the imagery and situations are so disturbing that the movie appears to have challenged the hapless viewer into a staring match. ‘Let’s see who shies away first?’… It won’t be the camera. Tragic. Brutal. Riveting. This one is not for the faint of heart.
The story is driven almost purely by Maggie’s character and Leslie Easterbrook’s brilliant performance. She is a tortured soul full of shame and regret, but unable to contain her sadistic rage towards the fruits of her ill-fated marriage. Her righteous determination to drag her children into the deepest reaches of hell, while constantly claiming to be doing the “Lord’s work,” makes Maggie an overwhelming character that sucks viewers into her demented world and ultimately will force many to turn away or walk out entirely when witnessing the results of her malevolence.
The horror strikes powerfully where we want to believe we can feel safe – the family. The Afflictedperverts it and many other things we hold as sacred and makes us – as viewers -complicit in the same abominable acts. Many Indie horror films are intense and try to reach us at our core with close-to-home situations that we can imagine really happening, if not relate to… The Afflictedstands out amongst competitors because of its excellent execution and accomplishes all it sets out to. It hits hard… You will want to turn away.
But its principle strength is also its primary flaw. The Afflicted begins with ‘disturbing’ and moves onto ‘horrific’, before lingering in ‘hellish’. The conclusion may seem predictable to some, but because of how the film progresses and the tension it creates – right up to the last minute – its effect remains powerful. Unfortunately, many viewers will probably have switched to something else by the time it arrives … Not out of boredom, but … who really wants to stay in hell with Grace and her sisters.
This is a well-executed act of horror, but because it strikes so close to the heart, its entertainment value is diminished and most horror fans probably will not want to sit through this particular tour of hell.