Written and directed by Todd Lincoln, The Apparition had such promise but in the end failed miserably, giving viewers a hideous ending that is reminiscent of so many contemporary horror films that I feel this pattern will continue to influence other horror films in the near future. This type of lazy filmmaking is the bane of horror, and I feel that contemporary horror films must transcend such weakened work or suffer the fate of The Apparition, which took only three months to transition from movie-theater exhibition to DVD release.
The film begins promisingly, with four parapsychologists (college kids) attempting to break into the realm of the spiritual. Their goal is to recreate what is called the Charles Experiment, in which they use the drawing of a deceased man, Charles Reamer (the experiment’s namesake) to summon his spirit. Something does manage to come through, but as is usually the case in such genre films, all hell breaks loose, with one of the parapsychologists, Lydia (Julianna Guill), sucked into the netherworld.
The film then shifts gear, picking up on one of the parapsychologists, Ben (Sebastian Stan), who has left college and is now working as an electronics installer. He has also established a relationship with Kelly (Ashley Greene), who works for a veterinarian and aspires to become one herself. The couple has only moved into a new house owned by Kelly’s parents. This suburban retreat is in a new area, so there are few neighbors about, making it feel like a wasteland out of a zombie apocalypse.
It isn’t long before strange things start happening: doors open of their accord, furniture and objects move about, and some weird-looking green mold begins to appear. It turns out that the mold functions as a gateway for something to come through, and that something begins to torment Ben and Ashley. Desperate, Ben reaches out to Patrick, (Tom Felton, a.k.a. Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies), who has been battling the evil on his own. Patrick informs Ben that the house is not haunted—he is. The remainder of the film has the trio battle the evil, and just when you think they have won, the menace manages to overcome them, leading to one of the least-satisfying climaxes ever put on celluloid.
There are numerous problems with The Apparition. Perhaps most important is the film’s screenplay, which relies too much on other movies to create its core plot. Horror-hounds will recognize elements from movies like Flatliners, The Grudge, The Haunting in Connecticut, Paranormal Activity, The Ring (a key scene that comes out of nowhere), and even Ghostbusters (Patrick’s attempt at trapping the apparition using technology). Although there is nothing really wrong about taking advantage of what has come before, first-time writer/director Todd Lincoln can’t seem to focus on his core story, and as a result he turns in a hodgepodge of ideas that lead to nothing.
Although the key actors do well enough (with Felton easily stealing the show), there is little chemistry between Greene and Stan. Indeed, the two actors appear uncomfortable with each other, with Stan in particular seeming aloof. Also troubling is the subtle stripping of clothes that happens to Greene. As the film progresses, she slowly loses articles of clothing—although this is common in Hollywood fare, in this film it just came off as creepy and voyeuristic.
Without giving away the ending, I will hint that the trailer has everything you need to know. Moreover, the ending is unsatisfying not only in its execution but with respect to the story as a whole. Simply trying to shock an audience and make the horror eternal just doesn’t work, particularly given what has come before. Such lazy work does not evoke fear; it stirs up frustration and anger. Filmmakers ask viewers to invest in their stories—when such filmmakers take the easy way out, it is the audience that really pays for it.
There is very little to recommend The Apparition, other than maybe the first few minutes of footage and some of the scenes that showcase Tom Felton, whose performance brings this film to life for minutes at a time. Think long and hard before you rent this one, let alone purchase it for your collection.