Directed by: Todd Lincoln
Written by: Todd Lincoln
Cast: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton
Young tech geek Ben (Sebastian Stan) and his girlfriend Kelly (Ashley Greene) are taking a big step by moving in together; what Kelly doesn't know is that Ben has a bit of ghostly baggage that he's bringing along with him.
Ben managed to attract unwanted attention after being involved with a successful seance that managed to make contact with something from 'the other side'. Kelly doesn't know anything at all about this, which makes things awkward when they move in together and spooky things start to happen around the house.
It starts small, as such things are wont to do. A desk slides out of place. A picture falls from its frame. Little bumps in the night and other small annoyances. This rapidly escalates, however, until the two young people realize they are under a full paranormal assault.
The Apparition is a haunted house story, and follows familiar patterns. The spooky activity escalates, things gets out of control, and soon enough the happy young couple isn't so happy anymore. This is especially true after Kelly learns that it is all because Ben once dabbled with seances (that bastard!).
As a context based haunted house story, The Apparition does have a handful of good moments. A couple of the scares are pretty creepy, and the entire 'unknown' nature of the threat is somewhat effective. However, it is also fairly easy to see where the film's inspirations lay. There are echoes of Paranormal Activity, Ju-on: The Grudge, as well as aspects of the classic The Legend of Hell House, in that it attempts to bring science and technology into the mix.
However, The Apparition is deeply troubled, and a handful of spooky moments cannot repair the glaring issues that plague the rest of the film.
The romance and relationship of Ben and Kelly is that happy, flowery, idealized, no-problem-in-the-world sort of fluff that comes out of a paperback book and never actually exists in the real world. They're both just so cute together. It feels like the personalities behind each character were summed up by the quickly scribbled line "Ben and Kelly are a happy young couple" and that all creative thought stopped there. Their entire being is summed up by them smiling at one another.
This heavy handed characterization follows through the arc of the film. Later, when the ectoplasm hits the fan, Kelly rummages through Ben's computer and learns that the poltergeist invasion is all due to Ben being involved in a seance in college. Her reaction is to get incredibly pissed off - I mean, obviously being involved with seances means Ben is a right awful bastard who should be in prison. You just can't trust those sorts of people. Her becoming so unreasonably angry just didn't flow with how happy they were earlier. If she was the sort of person to get that mad over something as childishly innocent as a seance during his college years, then he would have been routinely pissing her off every single day before this revelation. This is the part of the script where it was quickly scribbled "Ben and Kelly become unhappy".
The music is - surprisingly - kind of awful. I say surprisingly because the music was composed by Tomandandy, who's music I greatly appreciated in the 1993 Killing Zoe. I suppose it is not really fair to say that the music itself is awful; it's more like the music was poorly integrated. The music is just so predominant, and is loudly present in scenes which just didn't warrant such heavy tracks. It's playing during sweeping shots of the desert of Palmdale (where the haunted house resides); it's also there while the young couple shop at Costco. It's everywhere. Every scene has this heavy dominant music that just doesn't seem to fit the film in which it lives.
The supernatural assault itself is shaky stuff. Early in the film, we are introduced to this spooky old character "Charles", who has this stark H.P. Lovecraft sort of look about him. The original seance included a statue of the man, and this statue shows up here and there throughout the film. However, ultimately Charles doesn't seem to be involved at all, and the film seems to forget it introduced him. Was he originally scripted to be involved? Why did we waste time with him at all?
This problem is sustained. The nature of the evil involved is left intentionally ambiguous, which can be a good thing - if done right. A film can have an evil entity that is mysterious and which is never really explained; however, the maker of the film should still understand it. It feels like the ambiguity of the evil spirit in The Apparition was left unexplained because they literally had no explanation for it or its motives. The ambiguity felt like an excuse to not do the creative work of understanding the evil's ambitions.
This lack of explanation reaches a sort of critical mass in the third act, when it seems someone realized things weren't clear and so added fast paced narration by paranormal scientist Patrick (Tom Felton) in an attempt to explain what was going on. Narration is a touchy thing. Its presence at the end of The Apparition was awkward, clumsy, and despite its intentions did absolutely nothing to clarify what was transpiring.
Context based haunted house stories can be a great basis for a horror film; the fact that there are so many out there is strong testimony to this statement. The Apparition does have a few moments where things manage to get a little creepy, but is so plagued with other problems that it may leave an audience more confused than scared.
You forgot to say, "And then Ashley Greene walks around in a thong for 30 minutes when she thinks there is a burglar in the house. This is because they wanted to exploit Ashley Green's ass."
"Another great thing about being 70,000 light years away from the nearest Starfleet vessel is that once we finally get back to Earth, we can makeup bullshit stories. Off the top of my head: 'We met Amelia Earhart,' 'We singlehandedly eliminated most of the Borg fleet' or 'Paris and I turned into giant pink lizards and mated.'"
I am surprised Hollywood isn't remaking The Entity, which is what I briefly thought this was when I saw it.
" I grant, at least, that there are two distinct conditions of my mental existence -- the condition of a lucid reason, not to be disputed, and belonging to the memory of events forming the first epoch of my life -- and a condition of shadow and doubt, appertaining to the present, and to the recollection of what constitutes the second great era of my being. Therefore, what I shall tell of the earlier period, believe; and to what I may relate of the later time, give only such credit as may seem due, or doubt it altogether, or, if doubt it ye cannot, then play unto its riddle the Oedipus. " - Eleonora, Edgar Allen Poe