A dumb concept, scripted and directed poorly, brought to screen lifelessly via subpar performances.
“The Apparition” begins with three college students conducting a parapsychology experiment. They’re attempting to reproduce the results of a séance held by a handful of people from the 1970s who got together and focused their attention on thinking about a recently deceased colleague. It resulted in the table that they were sitting around shaking and moving. Now, almost forty years later, the current batch of college kids intends to replicate the results. This time with the benefits of modern scientific monitoring equipment.
And so, they strap electronic head doohickeys on in order to amplify the electromagnetic thought pattern magic (NOTE: Not exactly what they said in the movie, but 100% comparable in terms of scientific legitimacy), so that the effects are multiplied, and they all stare real hard at this figurine.
It works. Their experiment weakens the whatzits between spirit planes (NOTE: Not the term they used, but it’s a very close synonym) and before you know it a Malevolent Spirit has crossed over into our world.
They believed in the spirit, and it appeared. In spite of the emphasis on this angle in the marketing campaign, this is pretty much the last you’ll hear of “belief” manifesting the spirit in the film. The movie is not a movie about a handful of young people trying desperately not to believe in ghosts, as was insinuated by the promos. Though I do have to empathize with the marketing department for realizing that THAT concept is 500x more clever than the dreck contained in this bag of turd.
What we do get here is little more than a standard modern haunted house story, with the experiment just being the explanation of the ghost’s genesis. One of the students who survives the experiment moves away with his girlfriend after surviving the incident, and is followed by the ghost. He proceeds to hide the truth from his girlfriend in spite of mounting poltergeist activity in the house. (What Ghost? C’mon…) In addition to a strange, ashen mold appearing everywhere, doors open, lights flicker, furniture moves, and the house is full of strange noises.
Unfortunately, all the “Scare Tactics” this movie employs are cribbed directly from other, superior movies. There were callbacks to any number of other horror films… “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Poltergeist”, “Paranormal Activity”, “The Ring”, “The Grudge”, there are more too. But this film isn’t paying homage, it’s just classlessly aping them, probably without even being savvy enough to know that it’s doing it. The slow escalation of events is boring, because you don’t care about the characters, and then the payoff is weak because they don’t have the talent to make it anything but. Things begin with mysteriously opening doors (ooohoohooooh…) and slowly proceed to where the spirit can basically just… rewrite the laws of physics and reality, but by that time it’s just stupid and you won’t care. I was never scared once (high degree of difficulty), but I was also never even startled (low degree of difficulty). But on the plus side of the ledger, I did give myself the facepalm at least a dozen times going “That is SO stupid!”
It’s a toss-up for me as to what I detested more, here. The “High Concept” itself is awful, as mentioned above. Then when it comes time to actually put things into motion, the script is weak; these events are about as stereotypical “Ghost Movie 101” as you ever want to see. But the movie also stars a freaking horrible cast, who barely look old enough to be IN college, let alone smart enough to summon a freaking ghost by wearing doohamawhatizits and stuff. Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan are pretty bad here. They can’t emote to save their lives, so it’s too bad the story DIDN’T have their characters depend on not being scared in order to save themselves, they’d have been fine. Tom Felton flatlines as the leader of the initial experiment, the one who’s supposed to be the brains behind it all. And THEN! To top it all off, “The Apparition” is directed for shit, too. Since acting sucks across the board there needs to blowback on the director some at least, the editing bites, and the sound is overused and hackneyed. Seriously, I’m even ragging on the sound in this flick.
I hate to call him out, because it’s his first feature film, and you don’t wish it on people, but director Todd Lincoln has officially just had an inauspicious debut.