The Apparition: The Horror, the Muddled Horror

August 27, 2012

The Apparition
Grade 67
Cast:Tom Felton, Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan
Director:Todd Lincoln
Rating:PG-13 for terror/frightening images and some sensuality
Running time: 82 minutes

Mark Jenkins for the Washington Post

Kelly, the heroine of The Apparition, seems pretty happy with her boyfriend, Ben. He’s handsome, thoughtful and good around the house, which happens to be a new Spanish-style tract mansion in an almost entirely unoccupied development in the Southern California desert. Life seems stellar for the young couple, who wisely chose to rent rather than buy.

But you know how guys are with their little secrets. It turns out that Ben has never told Kelly about Lydia, the college girlfriend who got away. That is, literally got away — she was sucked into the nameless void during a high-tech seance conducted by Ben, Lydia and their pompous friend Patrick, who looks eerily like Draco Malfoy.

In fact, Patrick is played by Tom Felton, who spent his formative years as Malfoy. And Kelly is Ashley Greene, who has appeared in the Twilight series and elsewhere. Even Sebastian Stan, who plays Ben, has actually acted before. But they all look like first-timers in this disjointed scare flick, which just shows the power of a clumsy writer-director — in this case, Todd Lincoln — to make his stars appear as hapless as he is.

Not that the cast, which includes Julianna Guill as the briefly glimpsed Lydia, could possibly have made anything of the muddled script, which combines horror and sci-fi with a dollop of theology. The creature (or creatures) that Ben and his pals summoned are identified as being from another dimension, but also as coming from “purgatory.” Frequent shots of high-voltage power lines suggest that the entity has something to do with electricity, but sometimes it just seems to be a garden-variety poltergeist. Or maybe the demon is the cold-fingered embodiment of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, come to trash the last few circa-2006 houses that escaped default.

The Apparition has many of the features of a horror cheapie, including use of low-definition “found footage,” heavy reliance on a single location and a shower scene for the leading lady. As the moderately well-known cast indicates, however, the movie is kind of fancy for its genre. The interiors were shot at Germany’s fabled Studio Babelsberg, and the pulsing, hammering techno score is by the well-regarded tomandandy.

The director occasionally teeters on the verge of having some fun with the threadbare premise. Ben, for example, owns a guitar, a Misfits poster and a Bauhaus T-shirt, which suggests he’s into goth-rock as well as seance-tific experiments. Maybe the movie should have just gone with that. The Apparition would have made more sense, commercially if not narratively, as a long-form Marilyn Manson video.

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