CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE APPARITION (2012)
By Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
(The Scene: A darkened room full of electronic equipment. Three college students sit around a table, looking intense and frightened.)
STUDENT #1: We must concentrate on this statuette. (Plunks figurine onto table that looks strangely like GOOFY). This is a 3D interpretation of the undead spirit we are trying to contact. Our combined brainwaves, amplified by those electronic amplifiers, will stimulate the spirit, draw him out from his world into ours, and then with those containment machines over there, we’ll be able to harness and contain the evil spirit. Why and for what purpose? Because, by using this electronic equipment, we’ll be able to prove that the supernatural exists!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Have you guys heard yourselves lately? (ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES burst into room.) Contacting evil spirits using brainwaves, amplified by electronic devices. The last time I heard this much scientific mumbo jumbo it was Christopher Lloyd talking to Michael J. Fox about fast cars, lightning, and time travel!
L.L. SOARES: What college did you guys go to? The Colin Clive School of Electronics?
MA: My dog makes more sense when he barks!
STUDENT #1: It’s not our fault you guys can’t follow an intellectually challenging topic like this.
LS: So now we’re dumb? Okay, Einstein, explain to us how this equipment works then.
STUDENT #1: Well, I press that button over there and— um.
LS: I thought so.
MA: Marty Feldman with a hump on his back makes more sense than you guys!
STUDENT#1 (hurt): Gee, why don’t you tell us what you really think?
LS: I think you’re a bunch of idiots! Can we go home now?
MA: That’d be too easy. Love it or hate it, we have to review today’s movie.
LS: Why don’t you start then? I’ve got some college students I’d like to scare. (Makes weird faces at the students sitting at the table.)
MA: Sure. Today we’re reviewing THE APPARITION (2012) a new horror movie starring Ashley Greene—Alice in the TWILIGHT movies—as a young woman who, along with her boyfriend, runs afoul a nasty evil spirit in their new home. Sound familiar? Of course it does! It’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY all over again, or at least it tries to be. It plays more like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY “lite.”
THE APPARITION gets off to a muddled start, as first we see film footage shot in the 1970s of a group of people holding a séance of sorts trying to contact the spirit of a dead man, and I’m thinking, this is going to be a “lost footage” movie, but this footage only lasts a few minutes.
LS: Thank goodness. But the funniest aspect of the footage is that it’s supposed to be a group of “psychologists.” Boy, what a serious scientific experiment this is! And they’re all laughing and making goofy faces. Looks more like a prank to me. They call it the “Charles Experiment,” since they’re trying to contact a recently-departed friend named Charles in the séance. They even have a really awful hand-drawn picture of him on the table during the whole thing.
MA: The movie then jumps to video footage from today, of a group of college students in a room filled with electronic apparatus as they attempt to repeat the 70s experiment, this time using electronic equipment to help them contact the dead. When this experiment goes badly, the film then jumps ahead to the story of a happy young couple Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), who have only just recently moved into a new home in sunny California.
LS: Ben was one of the college kids in that second video we saw, along with his friends Patrick (Tom Felton) and Lydia (Julianna Guill), by the way, where they conjure forth some kind of entity from the netherworld! And this time, instead of a bad picture of Charles, Lydia made a statue of him because a “3D representation has more power” or some such gobbly gook.
MA: In no time, strange things begin to happen to this happy couple in their new home, as doors open in the middle of the night, bureaus move, hideous mold appears in unexpected places, and strange noises are heard, all things that the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies did a much better job with. So, what’s going on? Well, it turns out that since boyfriend Ben was part of that college experiment to contact the dead, the evil entity they called forth has followed Ben to his new home. Why? How? Who knows!
Who cares? I certainly didn’t. The rest of the movie is about Kelly and Ben’s attempts to get rid of the spirit that doesn’t seem to want to leave them alone, and really, this sentence is more interesting than the events which occur in THE APPARITION.
LS: Yeah, that evil spirit must have a really good GPS, because why else would it go all the way from the college to Ben’s house just to torment him? Of course, the killer line here is when Patrick shows up later and tells Ben “It’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s you.” Which is pretty much the same line that was used in one of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies! Can you say “big time rip-off?”
(The lights flicker, and the room goes dark. When the lights come back on, LS and MA are no longer in the room full of electronic equipment. Now they are in an unfamiliar apartment)
LS: Huh? Someone needs to pay the electrical bill around here.
MA (unfazed): THE APPARITION is a sad excuse for a horror movie. Talk about nothing happening in a movie!
(Suddenly, JERRY SEINFELD enters room.)
SEINFELD: It’s a movie about nothing! (EXITS)
MA: Well, that may have worked for Seinfeld and his classic TV show, but it doesn’t cut it in a horror movie. Something better darn well happen—but in this case, really, nothing does.
It plays out like a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY wannabe, but without any serious frights. I wasn’t scared, and I didn’t get the feeling that the rest of the audience I saw it with—a silent audience—was scared, either. As a result, it’s a standard haunted house tale that is completely forgettable.
LS: Yeah, it’s like they took a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie and, instead of presenting it as “found footage,” they just made it as a typical horror movie. In fact, it’s so much like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, you’d think that the creators of those films might have grounds for a lawsuit. The only difference is the silliness about the “Charles Experiment,” which is a total joke. People have had séances for centuries, but all of a sudden, add some electronic equipment, and you might just open the doorway to hell. Or purgatory….or Disneyland!
The movie INSIDIOUS (2010) did something similar—telling a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY type story in a traditional movie format without all the security cameras— but at least it made things different enough to keep it interesting. THE APPARITION doesn’t even try to be original.
MA: Plus I remember INSIDIOUS being scary, or at least the first half of it was, anyway.
(KRAMER from the SEINFELD show suddenly charges into the room. An unseen audience applauds madly. He makes a bunch of goofy faces and then leaves)
LS: What the hell was that about?
MA: We may have opened a portal into the SEINFELD show.
LS: Oh my god!
MA: THE APPARITION is also a different story than the one depicted in its trailers. The movie’s tagline is “Once you believe, you die,” and the implication was that this was going to be an evil entity created by the human mind that gained power when people believed in it, but the story in this movie hardly touches upon this at all. The evil entity in THE APPARITION feeds off energy, and it uses this energy to enter our world. How exactly it does this isn’t properly explained, and when the characters in the movie try to explain it, they sound unconvinced, and their dialogue comes off as phony and contrived, like a bad script in a bad horror movie, which of course, it is.
LS: Don’t even mention that awful trailer to me! Not only does it present us with a totally different movie, based on how the story is presented in the trailer, but it gives away the ending! I’ve never seen such a blatant cheat like that since they did the same thing in the trailer for QUARANTINE (2008). If the only scary scene you have in a movie is the very last scene, don’t use it in your trailer and ruin the ending for people who actually pay to see the movie! Hell, maybe this just means your movie sucks, if it’s the only scene you can use in a trailer to generate interest!
MA: Yeah, THE APPARITION is another movie where, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the final shot of the movie. What a rip-off is all I can say! I won’t say which scene it is, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen it.
LS: I think most people who have seen the trailer can figure it out.
(A disembodied voice starts talking in the background)
LS: What the hell is that?
(Voice gets clearer. It’s a tinny voice, like someone talking through an old intercom)
VOICE: Jerry, can you buzz me up? Jerry?
MA: It’s George Costanza asking to be buzzed up on the SEINFELD show.
LS: Who knew SEINFELD could be so damn scary?
MA: Well, this is certainly scarier than THE APPARITION!
LS; Kramer’s hair is scarier than THE APPARITION!
VOICE: Jerry, you there? Jerrrry!
MA: I have nothing against the basic concept of THE APPARITION. I’m a sucker for even the most contrived plot devices, as long as the movie does a good job selling the concept to me. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), for example: what a ridiculous concept! Yet the movie succeeded in convincing me Abraham Lincoln really was fighting vampires and it made perfect sense, even while I recognized that, in reality, it made no sense at all. THE APPARITION does a lousy job selling its concept. It’s as if screenwriter Todd Lincoln simply hadn’t thought this idea through, and it shows in the final product.
LS: This is Todd Lincoln’s first time as a director of a feature film. Before this, he only made a few shorts. He also wrote THE APPARITION. As a director, he has potential. He gives us a (mostly) coherent story, and he had decent production values. As a writer, he’s not so hot. THE APPARITION is completely unoriginal, silly, and—sadly, for a horror movie—completely lacking in scares. Maybe with a better writer, Lincoln could give us something worthwhile. But THE APPARITION is not going to put this guy on the map.
MA: Was there anything I liked about THE APPARITION? Yes, there was one thing, and that was the performance by Ashley Greene as Kelly. She’s the only reason I’m going to give this movie even one knife. Greene is stunningly beautiful, and she can act as well. She’s on screen for most of this film, and that’s a very good thing, because while I sat there and waited endlessly for something to happen to move the god-awful plot along, at the very least I got to watch Greene, and she’s easy to watch. I actually liked her more here than in the TWILIGHT movies.
LS: That is actually scary! I was going to say the same thing. Greene is hot, and I could watch her all day, especially in the scenes where she’s in a bikini or in a sexy nightie. Hell, it didn’t even matter that this was a lame horror movie with nothing scary in it, as long as I got to see Greene walking around with her butt cheeks showing. But that only goes so far. And beyond that, THE APPARITION has nothing! By the way, the reason she’s better here than in the TWILIGHT movies is because, in those movies, she’s just another supporting character in a vampire soap opera. Here, she’s the lead. And even if the movie is a complete piece of crap, Greene shows us that she can carry a film.
(Another disembodied voice is heard in the background. This time a female voice)
VOICE 2: Jerry? Where are you? We’re down here waiting to be buzzed up.
MA: It’s Elaine from SEINFELD.
LS: I thought she was the Vice President now.
MA: No, that’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s new HBO show, VEEP.
LS: Why are we promoting that show? It’s awful.
MA: I’m not promoting it. I was just answering your question.
VOICE 2: Jerry, can you hear us? Are you there at all?
(VOICE trails off)
MA: Sebastian Stan is also pretty likeable as Greene’s boyfriend Ben, although I still don’t understand why he doesn’t come clean with Kelly immediately and tell her as soon as these weird things start happening to him, that this had happened to him before. It’s not like he’s scared or anything, because he’s certainly not acting scared. It seemed like just a forced plot point to have the two leads argue, to generate some dramatic tension in the movie. Someone needed to generate tension. The ghosts certainly weren’t doing it!
LS: Yeah, he has all this ghost-detecting equipment in the garage, and he doesn’t tell her. What’s the big secret? It’s not like she won’t believe him, once things start getting weird. In fact, Kelly is the only one here who makes any sense, because the first time things get really weird, she just gets up and leaves! Finally, a logical reaction to this ghost crap. So it’s not like she’s hard to convince. Ben also gets numerous phone messages and emails from his friend Patrick, warning him that another experiment to trap the entity (which Ben didn’t take part in) failed, and things have gotten more dangerous, and yet he completely ignores them. He doesn’t respond to Patrick (until much later in the movie) and doesn’t tell Kelly. Why? Doesn’t he think this might be an interesting topic for conversation? Ben is just a moron. So yeah, actor Sebastian Stan is likeable enough, but his character is a dope, and hard to care about. There’s also something odd about Stan, like he’s a foreign actor in a dubbed movie—like he’s one of those odd actors you see in a Mento’s commercial. I can’t fully explain it, but there’s something just off about him.
MA: Tom Felton as Patrick, Ben’s college buddy who was in charge of the electronic séance to contact the dead, gets to utter the worst lines in the movie, things like “We tried to contain it, but it escaped, and now it’s more dangerous than ever!” and “With this equipment amplifying our brainwaves, it won’t be like four of us in this room, but 4,000 of us!” Way to go, Dr. Evil!
As you said earlier, THE APPARITION was written and directed by Todd Lincoln, and I can’t say that he made much of an impression. I didn’t like the script at all. I thought the explanation of the entity/apparition made little sense, and worse, what this movie suffered from the most, was a lack of a significant threat. The entity, or whatever the heck it is, is hardly in this film at all, and it’s not scary. I kept waiting for something scary to happen. I’m still waiting.
I found myself pining for some bloody monsters, some cheap special effects, and even some gory killings to liven things up. Instead, all I got was strange statuettes and weird silhouettes, and even without the pirouettes, that’s too many “ettes” for me!
LS: And don’t forget the creepy mold!
MA: I give THE APPARITION—a weak horror movie not even worth your time on DVD— one knife, and the only reason it doesn’t get zero knives is because I enjoyed Ashley Greene in the lead.
LS: Once again, the scariest part of this review is that we’re in complete agreement. I give THE APPARITION one knife as well, and for the same reason.
Todd Lincoln, you need to go back to screenwriter school.
(The lights flicker and go out. When they come back on, there is a large dark shape looming behind LS and MA. It has its arms outstretched and moves forward toward them)
LS: What the hell!
(LS and MA turn and face the terrifying entity. Which then removes its Grim Reaper-ish hood, to reveal its face. It’s really JERRY SEINFELD!)
SEINFELD: HAHA. I did it! I scared you guys! You should see your faces!
VOICE OVER THE INTERCOM: Jerry, are you there? Can you buzz us up PLEASE!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives THE APPARITION ~ ONE knife!
LL Soares also gives THE APPARITION ~ONE knife.