‘The Apparition’ Review
College kids do stupid things. They drink, they have promiscuous sex, they summon immortal demons from purgatorial realms of endless suffering. At least that's what they do in 'The Apparition,' a tediously insipid horror movie about four collegiate scientists who are smart enough to create devices capable of reaching across the etheric plane and stupid enough not to predict the consequences of their actions, or to have any idea how to stop the entity they let into our world.
In a prologue, the students -- including their ringleader, Patrick (Tom Felton) -- bring forth some sort of unholy evil in the hope of proving the existence of the supernatural. Way to go guys, you proved it! Now what? No one thought that far ahead, and the proof promptly drags one of them away to ghoulish parts unknown.
Cut to some time later, and a young couple -- sexy veterinarian assistant Kelly (Ashley Greene) and hunky television installer Ben (Sebastian Shaw) -- settling in to a brand new home in a largely uninhabited suburban housing development. Almost immediately, strange things start happening. A brand new cactus dies. Locked doors open on their own. Mold sprouts under the floorboards. Could the haunting in Kelly and Ben's house be connected somehow to the spirit that Patrick accidentally conjured? Is the sky blue?
Writer/director Todd Lincoln's film brings absolutely nothing new to the haunted house genre; the script feels like it was written on tracing paper held over various portions of the screenplays for 'Poltergeist,' 'Paranormal Activity,' and 'Insidious.' Still, plenty of interesting movies have been made from derivative raw materials. In this case, though, everyone is content just going through the motions. Despite a plethora of manufactured shocks, nothing about 'The Apparition' is remotely scary or surprising. Most of 'The Apparition' is waiting for Patrick's inevitable arrival while this invisible presence dicks around with our heroes' stuff (he messed up their closet, the heartless bastard!!!). Finally, Patrick arrives spouting some pseudo-scientific jargon and sets up a sort of cyber-seance. The only visible tension in any of this rests in the power lines that ring the canyon surrounding Kelly and Ben's house.
The most interesting part of the movie isn't even on the screen. The trailer for 'The Apparition' sells a tale about a "team of researchers" out to test the theory that "paranormal events are products are the human mind, and ghosts only exist because we believe in them." "Once you believe it's real," Patrick warns, "you die." Only Patrick never says that line in the finished film (at least I didn't hear it), and if the creature they're battling is feeding on their belief in it, that fact never comes up. The entire concept -- seemingly the movie's sole raison d'être -- has vanished like a specter.
Without it, 'The Apparition' is basically 80 minutes of generic jump scares involving generic people who are largely to blame for their generic problems. Given the choice between a resourceful, cunning ghost and a bunch of vapid, meddling scientists, you'll forgive me for rooting for the ghost.
'The Apparition' is in theaters now.
Matt Singer is a Webby award winning writer and podcaster. He currently runs the Criticwire blog on Indiewire and co-hosts the Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit podcast. His criticism has appeared in the pages of The Village Voice and Time Out New York and on ‘Ebert Presents at the Movies.’ He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, dog, and a prop sword from the movie ‘Gymkata.’