The Apparition (2012)
In the world of ghost-themed horror movies, The Apparition is about as close to a nothing experience as you’re likely to get. Some might say this about the Paranormal Activity franchise; however, here there is infinitely less tension, talent or effort. It practically evaporates from existence even as it plays.
The plot in The Apparition is both astonishingly simple and, yet, is totally underwritten. We basically follow a charisma-free couple, bland Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan, as the move into a house, owned by Greene’s mother, in a new development; it’s so new, only one other house is occupied despite rows of highly-desirable real estate. No prizes for guessing that soon after their arrival a paranormal presence makes itself known in their new digs. Anyway, since all of the trappings of this story are familiar, there needs to either be an interesting hook into the how and why of the haunting or, at the very least, some directorial skill to make the movie interesting and/or scary. Neither is in evidence.
For the bulk of the movie we get the horrors of unlocked doors, weird ceiling stains and the unremarkable death of the neighbor’s dog. Eventually, Greene finds a clue in a mysterious box in the garage which holds some videotapes of Stan’s. The tapes show a séance gone awry that caused the disappearance of one of his classmates, and, yes, this ghost has followed him. Who is it? What is it? Why is it there? The feeble and half-hearted explanations hardly satisfy. Eventually, another of Stan’s old friends shows up and we get a retread of the séance and some furniture gets rearranged before this friend disappears.
To make matters more confusing, the script is guilty of one of my biggest pet peeves: rules that are established and are then broken, rendering everything one sees as irrelevant. The Apparition sort of gives us hints as to what this benevolent spirit is, what the spirit can and can’t do, and what is an effective means for protecting oneself against it, but then disregards all of it. We are told there is this cage wired with an electromagnetic field that protects against the ghost, except for when the script says it doesn’t. The mess ends with both Stan and Greene vanishing (he disappears in the aforementioned cage, and she runs and hides in a sporting goods shop until her demise) and no explanation or resolution is provided; it’s just over and that’s that.
Is anything salvageable in The Apparition? I can’t think of anything. The screenplay, as mentioned, is empty and garbled, the acting by the entire cast is wooden, and the direction by first-timer Todd Lincoln (who also wrote the screenplay) is devoid of skill, suspense and atmosphere. You’d be booing the screen if, that is, you were still awake or could muster up the energy to do so.
The fact that The Apparition, even with a paltry $17 million dollar production budget, couldn’t even make back a third of it proves that sometimes even the generally undiscriminating public can show a modicum of good taste.