Mark Reviews Movies

The Apparition


½ Star (out of 4)

Director: Todd Lincoln

Cast: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Rick Gomez

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for terror/frightening images and some sensuality)

Running Time: 1:22

Release Date: 8/24/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 23, 2012

The Apparition, which is so titled because someone opened up his or her thesaurus to the "ghost" entry and picked the first option, offers us yet another version of people trying to evade a ghost in their house. Why is the ghost in the house? Is it even a ghost? What in this world or the other could be "worse" than a demon? These are the questions the screenplay by director Todd Lincoln only somewhat bothers to answer throughout the movie, and, apparently after realizing that he forgot to clarify the movie's central premise, he instead inserts a voice-over during the climax to give things some perspective.

It's not that we really need the full explanation offered near the end. This is simple, silly stuff: There's a ghost terrorizing people. It's not complicated, and it's best—as this movie once again proves—to leave the paranormal mumbo jumbo at the door, thank you very much. This being could be from purgatory or the tent section of the local big box store, and it wouldn't make a lick of difference as to whether or not the oh-so-familiar story one is telling is the slightest bit interesting. The Apparition is about as interesting as a day spent roaming the aisles of a store to browse for random stuff or having long conversations that consist entirely of small talk.

After a pair of prologue sequences that both give us a group of people sitting around a table to perform a séance (The second of those scenes plays again just to reveal a wholly superfluous detail that occurs after it cuts away the first time), those menial errands and that sort of blithering dialogue are what constitute the opening act of the movie. In it, we meet Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), two of the dopiest dopes to ever find themselves confronted with an evil spirit. They spend the first part of the movie going about their jobs (She's a veterinarian's assistant, and he sets up home theater systems), saying hello to the new neighbors, and shopping for a cactus (The talk about that damn plant goes on for what seems like an eternity).

Eventually—and that's a long "eventually"—the spirit appears by killing off the cactus and the neighbors' dog ("Your house killed my dog," the poor little owner tells Kelly).  These deaths are before sending the horrors of moldy buildup in the laundry room and something like a hornet's nest with on the kitchen wall.

See, the phantom causes people to see things that aren't there, gradually driving them insane. We eventually learn this—again, it's a protracted "eventually"—when Patrick (Tom Felton), Ben's old partner in paranormal psychology, conveniently shows up to explain it all. In one scene, Kelly hammers nails into the frame of a door to lock up the creature and winds up in the same room with it, which leads us to wonder why she doesn't just open the door, given that she only put nails into the frame. Another shows a twisted version of their home, which looks like a low-end Escher rip-off. With little else of the frightening variety with which to work, Lincoln relies a lot on shadows appearing in corners and lots of loud noises. Of course, after the predictable "startle" moment is over (Not one of them is startling), the banging just gets tedious.

Lincoln gives us an abundance of establishing shots for no reason. In fact, he uses wide shots as inserts during a few of the haunting sequences, and if ever there was a type of shot that spelled death for creating tension in a horror movie, it's a wide shot randomly placed as characters are exploring.

The performances in material like this are vital to its success. The tendency is to overplay the sense of fright too early; Greene and especially Stan do the opposite and offer such vacant stares in their reaction shots that they might as well be looking at a bare wall. Greene's character fulfills the requirement of showering at the worst possible time and, for reasons that are best left unexplored, decides that she will attempt to leave the house while wearing only her underwear. The scene of her standing by her car—keys in hand, mind you—while clad only in a tank-top and panties is one of many unintentionally hilarious moments the movie provides.

The Apparition is an incompetent exercise trying to generate scares from an exhausted premise. It's so terrible that there might actually be more tension in the numbing first act of monotonous chores than there is in anything that follows.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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