Todd Lincoln’s The Apparition wastes no time spooking audiences. The supernatural horror from Warner Bros. opens with not one, but two fantastic sequences that set the table for what should be the premiere haunter of the year. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is bogged down with heavy exposition, lack of rules, and a lackluster performance from Sebastian Stan.
Apparition opens Found Footage-style with a look back to the 1970’s when an experiment resurrects a recently deceased scientific team member. The result is a shaky table and a photo with a black figure standing in the back. It then cuts to present day where another group of scientists hope to recreate the experiment, and take it a step further (with the use of modern technology). The footage cuts when that super hottie from Friday the 13th (Julianna Guill) is sucked into blackness.
Post title card, everything quickly stumbles downhill as we’re introduced to Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), who go shopping at Costco and stuff. It’s super interesting (but not really). They move into a new house owned by Kelly’s parents, and almost immediately are in the middle of various supernatural events (like tables moving by themselves).
The biggest problem with The Apparition is that the story behind haunting is way, way, wayyyyy more interesting than the relationship between Kelly and Ben, who, sad to say, could both die for all I care. The entire Found Footage angle was visually more appealing, and more so, it was frightening.
Speaking of Ben and Kelly… While I was surprisingly impressed with Greene’s performance, Stan was awkwardly miscast. It also didn’t help that I felt like neither of them were ever in any real danger. Lincoln makes a noble attempt to explain why the duo remain in such an obvious haunted house, and even forces them into a hotel stay, but ultimately none of it felt “real” because of their passé attitude about the situation. What really dragged down the tension and scares was that there appeared to be no rules for the demon. In fact, Lincoln fills the meat of the film with exposition to tell the viewer just that. There’s literally a scene where Ben and Kelly hear a recording of Patrick (Tom Felton) – explaining that there are no rules or pattern for the demon, which is a complete copout.
The same issue arises when he attempts to explain why there‘s a “Grudge”-esque ghost and other unexplained oddities – Lincoln has a character state that, when haunted, one “can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake.” That’s one way to qualify putting anything you want in a film with no rhyme, reason *or* explanation.
I really wanted to like The Apparition, and think Lincoln had some really good ideas hiding within. His directing style was appealing, especially in those earlier sequences, and he got quite the performance out of both Greene and Felton (I kept wishing the entire movie was about his character). If anything, the final product feels a bit tampered with (like there were a million hands all over the film).
In the end it just feels like Apparition is unfocused and overdeveloped (it’s obvious they even tacked on an extra ending). While there were some fantastic scares (especially the shower scene), most of the pic was deluded with unnecessary exposition and a dreadfully uninteresting arc between Ben and Kelly. It will forever and ever bother me wondering what a movie about the actual scientists might have been like.