The Apparition is dreadful, dull and plodding. It is never scary, funny, insightful or entertaining. It is a complete misfire. At its core, writer/director Todd Lincoln seems to have a germ of an interesting idea, but the film loses touch with that idea as quickly as it introduces it. In a college science experiment, a group of parapsychologists attempt to record the proof of ghosts, spirits or similar creatures – whichever will manifest themselves. Mimicking a similar experiment from 1973, called The Charles Experiment, the group mistakenly conjures up a malevolent apparition. The film begins with this premise and then switches to a young couple, Kelly (Ashely Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), beginning their lives together in a new home. Odd things begin to happen, lights flicker, doors open, furniture moves on its own and a creepy looking mold begins to grow in various spots throughout the house. For nearly half the film, it plays out like Insidious on ice, Poltergeist without any punch and Parnormal Activity with a little too much normal. The film desperately wants to be scary, but cannot muster the slightest level of suspense or terror; it is completely devoid of anything remotely resembling scary or even spooky. It is a bust.
Aside from a few interesting, but far from original, imagery (see the poster for creepy hands that appear from behind characters), The Apparition has little clue on how to frighten its audience. It struggles to get its audience invested in its leads or the problems they are encountering. Even the effect of the paranormal activity they run up against is watered down. The film (perhaps to its credit) even fails to deliver many of the obvious jump scares that could easily have been present – and would have been in many of its contemporary film entries. Without delivering terror or jump scares, the film is almost purposely holding back on challenging its audience. When Ben finds himself disembodied from his sleeping self in a motel room when the couple decide enough is enough, the event is never capitalized upon in a rewarding way. It is unclear if it meant anything to the story or the character; it feels like it is there just because it looked cool. Almost every build up to a scare (or lack of scare), evolves in similar fashion leaving the affect as puzzling as the effect. There’s very little purpose or explanation, very little rhyme or reason.
Eventually, the introduction story and the main plot with Kelly and Ben collide toward the end. This should have provided the story with a catalyst to escalate the thrills and chills; instead, the film continues on with a collection of non-events, leading up to an anti-climatic and dull seance where Patrick (Tom Felton, from the opening college experiment) attempts to rid the couple of the apparition. The scene ends with a quiet thud. Even Patrick’s later – and predictable – encounter with the spirit is wimpy. And the film continues on past trying to recover and climax on a high note. But it cannot, it lumbers on to nothing. Questions, barely even asked, are not answered. Conflicts, practically non-existent, are left incomplete and unresolved. And the audience is left underwhelmed and bored.
Part of the problem is the cast, sadly. Ashley Greene (from the Twilight series) and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes from Captain America: The First Avenger) have very little chemistry. It is not a convincing love affair. It is hard to believe this couple will survive their relationship, much less the paranormal activity. Neither struggle is interesting. Sebastian Stan brings none of the charisma he displayed in Captain America. Tom Felton (Dracy Malfoy from the Harry Potter films) fares a little better. He does manage to provide Patrick with an air of authority and desperation that is appreciated. In truth, his plight in both the opening sequences and in the climatic confrontations are infinitely more interesting than the remaining film. The Apparition could have used a lot more of Felton’s presence and the Patrick character.
The effects in The Apparition are sub-par as well. The main effect, the ghostly hands reaching out from behind a character, is an improved riff on the effects found in The Grudge with Sarah Michelle Gellar. The typical haunted house effects, opening doors and moving furniture, are weak compared to Paranormal Activity or Insidious. When it comes time for the house to become infected by paranormal mold, the slime is little more the merely icky, certainly grosser than fungus found in common house holds, but it fails to reach anything memorable or frightening. Other effects are well done but are seen-that, been-there, from characters stuck on the ceiling, to ghostly images crawling out from behind furniture, to bed sheets moving on their own wrapping themselves around a sleeping, helpless victim. Once interesting effect has furniture thrown about, sticking in the walls, phased through the floor, warped and bizarre. But the scene has little consequence and has no time to gel on its own, loosing all of the effect’s impact and purpose.
The Apparition is a disaster. It is poorly conceived and executed. It’s a boring horror film. It fails to deliver any scares, chills or thrills. The film loses its own story before it even begins. The characters are dull and lifeless and the conflict is non-existent. The film is full of missed opportunities. Worse, the film is unoriginal, it never tries to challenge or frighten its audience. Mediocre at best, The Apparition should be avoided and/or forgotten but not forgiven.