In The Apparition, Twilight Saga star Ashley Greene is partnered with Gossip Girl/Captain America star Sebastian Stan as young couple Kelly and Ben, who move into a new suburban wasteland home owned by Kelly’s parents. For a night, everything in the house seems perfect, until doors mysteriously begin opening on their own, furniture starts to move itself, and a sickly, pock-marked mold begins to appear at random in certain rooms.
Kelly is immediately freaked out and ready to run, but objections from Ben and a fear of parental disappointment goad her into remaining in the haunted house. However, as the paranormal events increase in severity, Kelly begins to uncover secrets from Ben’s past that point to a horrifying reality: it isn’t the house that’s haunted, it’s them.
The Apparition is the debut feature-film from writer/director Todd Lincoln, and cinematically speaking, it is a failure on every level. The screenplay is insufferably bad, brimming with horror movie cliches, hilariously bad character decisions and motivations, with dialogue so mundane and cookie-cut that you will be able to call each terrible line out before a character inevitably utters it aloud. The direction is amateurishly cumbersome, with shots, framing and angles that are often distractingly weird or just downright wrong. The editing is just as awkward, lingering too long on certain moments to no effect – or conversely, jump-cutting the audience from one scene/circumstance to another so abruptly and roughly that it is cartoonishly funny. Even the soundtrack is wrong – a strange blend of low-key techno-trance beats and the usual ominous horror movie percussion – often so poorly synched with the visual component that it knocks you right out of the film.
Don’t hope for any help from the pretty young leads, as teen heartthrobs Greene and Stan have the most awkward and dead screen chemistry I’ve seen in a while. The first twenty minutes of The Apparition are enough to establish that this movie is going to be D.O.A. – and not just because of its ghostly antagonist. Kelly and Ben are never a convincing couple in the least, meaning that later on, when they’re so gung-ho about saving one another, it’s hard for the audience to care whether or not they make it through the night at all (some people possibly even praying that they don’t, lest the movie drag on).
Harry Potter alum Tom Felton shows up to slum it as a mysterious person from Ben’s past, who has specialized scientific ghost knowledge. Felton actually has real talent, and manages to throw himself into the role of “Patrick” with genuine conviction. Unfortunately for Felton, the story’s handling of his character (particularly the needlessly drawn-out introduction) immediately detracts from its effectiveness, while the dialogue Felton is handed (a baffling mixture of science and supernatural geek techno-babble) deep-sixes the performance entirely. In fact, the revelations and narrative exposition provided by Patrick pretty much deep-six the entire film; we are basically getting a mixture of Paranormal Activity, The Grudge and Ghostbusters - only something much, much dumber than any of those films (and with the exception of the latter, that’s really saying something).
As a final insult: The Apparition is yet another case of bait-and-switch movie marketing, with trailers and advertisements that not only reveal every juicy or scary bit of the film (including the ending), they also completely misrepresent the premise. If you were intrigued by the whole “Once you believe, you die,” tagline, don’t be fooled: it has little (to nothing) to do with the plot of the actual movie.
The Apparition is a rare example of filmmaking failure that is so complete, it will exacerbate its audience in nearly every way possible. It’s not kitschy enough to be ‘so bad it’s good’ fun; the only reason it gets a half-star is due to the one or two instances in which Lincoln is able to stage a creepy or unnerving ghost scare in somewhat creative fashion. But one or two (halfway) successful ideas do not a good horror movie make – especially when we already saw those moments in the trailer.
The Apparition is now playing in theaters, but think long and hard before paying the ticket price (or ever seeing the movie at all). It is rated Rated PG-13 for terror/frightening images and some sensuality.
[SPOILER ALERT: Watch the trailer below and you've seen the entire movie.]