Have you ever had a conversation with someone who stopped talking midway through a sentence? Not the comfortable shorthand that comes with a long term friendship, but the half-mad ramblings of a drunken stranger at a party – you know the type. He’s the guy that hems you into a corner with no one in eyeshot of rescuing you. But wait, there’s more. Occasionally, your incoherent companion has a moment of clarity and in place of his mad ramblings, you now have abject tedium.
The cinematic equivalent to this would be The Apparition.
The movie begins by taking us back to a 1974 paranormal experiment that sought to contact a spirit: it may have been too successful. Flash forward to the present and we find another group of students attempting the same experiment. This time, however, their de facto leader Patrick (Tom Felton) has developed a headband that amplifies the power of their belief.
What could go wrong?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that things go really wrong, really fast. Things go so wrong in fact that the spirit drags off the girlfriend of Patrick’s friend, Ben (Sebastian Stan). Cut to an even more immediate present and we find Ben has moved on to a Geek Squad-type techie and has got a cute new girlfriend, Kelly (Ashley Greene). They live in a huge house in a remote subdivision provided by Kelly’s parents because – really – suspension of disbelief needs a break somewhere. One day, after a particularly cute visit to the Costco, strange things start happening at the house. Could it be neighborhood pranksters, or… ghosts!
Of course, it’s ghosts.
The Apparition is the feature film debut for Todd Lincoln (who also penned the script), and well… let’s just say there’s plenty of room for improvement. This didn’t have to be a bad film. In fact, a lot of the themes presented have loads of potential. Even some of my personal favorites – sciences trespassing into forbidden territories and unknown spirits – are present, but like many of the themes stuffed into this movie they aren’t used to their fullest. It almost feels like he wanted to throw everything he could at the audience without thinking out whether or not it would be effective. Overall, it is a slapdash Frankenstein’s monster of a film: digging up the moldering portions of better films and cobbling it together into an 82 minute tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing we haven’t seen somewhere else before but done better.
Lack of originality aside, quite possibly the thing that bothered me the most was how artificial the relationships in the film felt. Every film uses a kind of short hand to tell stories, to establish their characters, to pull us into their world. Here, however, things felt stilted, conversation felt abrupt and the emotions felt fake. It’s not even something I could necessarily pin on the actors or the script – though the script should get its share of the blame. It feels like they edited all the breath – the natural rhythm — out of scenes. Maybe it’s just that my old “MTV generation” sensibilities are just too slow for this internet generation of movies. Regardless, some scenes felt like they could have been scripted with LOLSpeak.
As has been the unfortunate refrain lately, the actors did the best with what they were given. Felton did well in a role where his facial expression wasn’t set to a constant glower. Stan also handles his part as the hunky but slightly nerdy boyfriend well. And then there’s Ashley Greene. It’s not that she did a particularly bad job, but it seemed like she was only there for her cleavage. I guess they felt like the only way to keep your attention on the screen was to put her in short-shorts and bikini tops. Honestly, I can’t blame them.
The Apparition kicks off the fall horror season with a resounding yawn. Everything you’ve seen here, you’ve seen before and most likely, it was scary that time. Don’t get hemmed in by this one.
THE APPARITION opens August 24, 2012