By: Addison Wylie
The Apparition is one of the worst reviewed films of 2012. It currently resides at a whopping 4% on Rotten Tomatoes and has received plenty of negative word-of-mouth.
However, I’m here to defend it – kind of. As a whole, it isn’t good in the slightest and it plods along at a snail’s pace until it exhaustively reaches the finish line at 78 minutes (excluding the credits filled with random spooky filler).
There are issues with the bland and misguided actors, the feeble story, and with many of the scares and how they’re set-up and played out.
Why am I here to defend a movie that’s littered with flaws? Because I feel bad for director Todd Lincoln. He’s come to direct his first feature film and, unfortunately, his final product feels like a victim of circumstance.
A filmmaker can only do so much with a PG-13 rating, as we’ve seen with other neutered horrors. Instead of throwing blood, gore, and extreme terror at an audience, the writer/director must zero in on its creepiness factor and spook movie goers with an ominous tone and unsteady characters.
I think Lincoln does his best to his capabilities given his restrictions. The scares that excel in The Apparition are the ones that trap the leads in situations they cannot physically get out of due to an unstoppable evil force. Whatever they do is useless until the spirit lets go.
For instance, Kelly (played by Twilight’s Ashley Greene) and Ben (played by Sebastian Stan) take off to a hotel after being tormented at their house by the supernatural. Ben wakes up to find himself floating over his body as he watches the bed sheets mysteriously creep up on a passed out Kelly. The sheets overcome her and begin to shrink wrap her causing her to wake-up immediately and start suffocating.
That’s a creepy scene because of the inability to stop what’s happening. It’s even more creepy because Ben has to watch this unexplainable event. With scenes like these, Lincoln shows he has the capability to show unpleasant situations that leave haunting images in our head – all while fitting his movie for a teenage crowd. It’s a skill that’s highly appreciative in PG-13 horrors.
What I don’t appreciate, however, is how fast the movie is ready to ride the coattails of Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity. It’s ultimately why the film falls flat.
The Apparition is eager to take what was scary about those low-budget creep fests and blow them up to large proportions. Remember in Paranormal Activity when the camera would roll endlessly and audiences would be rewarded by spotting something small mysteriously moving? It was a subtlety effective scene because movie lovers were anticipating the unknown and got something to hang on to.
With Lincoln’s film, it feels as if his film is taken over in order to please that crowd who loved the Paranormal Activity films. In one scene, Kelly is folding clothes when suddenly the camera focuses in on the dresser. It moves! Inches! Kelly goes to put away the clean shirt and she’s taken off guard. The dresser….has now moved over…a tiny bit!
These “scares” wouldn’t have been as big of a gripe but the film wants to play these tiny happenings as huge scares. It suggests the film has nothing cataclysmic in its arsenal to fire at us and is only interested in showing us things that are sort of like other things from other, much better movies.
It’s too bad that Lincoln’s debut falls into the camp of rip-offs. With scenes as creepy as the bed sheet strangulation among a couple others, when we see these predictable and cheap frights, it does feel like his film, at points, was taken away from his original vision.
However, Lincoln doesn’t get away scot free.
What’s going on with the acting? For instance, Stan and Greene play lovers but their chemistry reeks of make-believe. They say cute things and giggle at each other, but you never believe them as anyone other than actors goofing around on set. I have no doubt these two were friends on set, but it doesn’t feel they took the plunge to actually establish a loving relationship in the film.
Greene’s Kelly is a terribly shrill character too. When weird happenings start taking place, she becomes snippy and catty in a way that feels overdone by the actress.
Stan’s Ben is trying to protect his girlfriend and Stan makes for a respectful male lead – even if he broods a ton. However, no matter what good deed he does, Kelly is always there to either yell at him about what he’s done or complain about the terrible events. Our heroine should be likeable. It’s hard to care when she mean-spiritedly debases her boyfriend in nearly ever scene.
Additionally, Lincoln’s logic to his story doesn’t hold water. The rules change regarding the spirit. He can travel alongside the cutesy couple and cause hell but Ben’s friend Patrick (played by Tom Felton) explains that in order to trap the evil, you must trap it and bolt the door shut. How does that work? He’s a ghost! This mean spirit is able to throw furniture through walls, for goodness sakes! On second thought, maybe doors are the weakness.
Lincoln is trying but the pressures of attempting to emulate something more successful cripples his debut. It also doesn’t help that the studio didn’t have faith in the project either, reportedly giving the film “the smallest wide-release it has given a major motion picture in its distribution history.” Yikes.
For that, I’ll recognize that Todd Lincoln has his name attached to a bad film, but I’m not ready to dismiss his directorial work just yet.