Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Apparition (2012)

Kelly (Ashley Greene) and her boyfriend Ben (Sebastian Stan) have freshly moved into a suburban palace in a development nearly bereft of humanity as some sort of long-term house sitters for Kelly's parents. The couple has barely moved in when (all together now) strange things begin to happen. Strange noises slightly inconvenience them, furniture moves when nobody is looking, and mold grows in the strangest places. Soon, the first pet death occurs - though it's not the couple's pet, for that would be too emotionally involving for this particular film.

Ben could actually tell Kelly what's going on, but doesn't for a while for reasons of bad scriptwriting and not enough actual content to make for a full-length movie. When Ben was in college, he and some friends accidentally conjured up something "from the other side" that has rather rude habits. It must have bothered them in the intervening years in some ways but the film makes puffing noises rather than showing or telling any more about that - at least, Ben's buddies attempt to bring the thing back where it came from, which would make little sense if it hadn't bothered them. Of course, the attempt to get rid of it has only made the thing stronger and is the reason for the newly intense (one supposes) attacks on Ben and Kelly.

Will Ben, Kelly, and Ben's old pal Patrick (Tom Felton) manage to get rid of the thing before it does something interesting? Warning, that was a trick question, because they don't get rid of it, but it also won't do anything interesting.

After the high of The Pact it seems only fitting the next contemporary movie about a haunting I watched was this, possibly the blandest movie about a haunting I've seen in a long time. It's probably better this way to keep my expectations for future films about ghosts and hauntings on a more realistic level.

The Apparition is a film that completely lacks the following things: tension, intelligence, imagination, scariness, actors who can actually act, and - surprisingly - jump scares. Not that I truly miss the latter, but their complete absence seems to be symptomatic of writer/director Todd Lincoln's complete unwillingness to make a horror film that actually attempts to engage its audience on any level, and be it just that of shouting "boo!" into their faces.

The whole film is a series of missed opportunities, bungled set-ups for scares and a whole bunch of nothing. It's competently made in so far as things are decently blocked and in focus, but Lincoln's direction is so lifeless even the two and half scenes that actually could work in disturbing or creeping out an audience fall flat on their asses. If I were scraping for something nice to say about the director's work here (which I'm not), I'd mention how much I appreciate that the film's not shot in the desaturated colour scheme filmmakers inexplicably love so much right now, but really, when the only positive thing that comes to mind about a film is that it uses actual colours, said film may have a problem.

The most remarkable thing on screen, on the other hand, is the cringeworthy way its first half takes time off of its busy schedule of boring its audience to show Ashley Greene in as many skimpy outfits as its rating allows. Alas, said rating is "PG-13", so what's supposed to be titillating comes off as a bit sad, provoking wistful memories of women showering in their bikinis. Yes, this is a movie where even the sleazy exploitation of a young actress's body is boring, which is particularly problematic when you keep in mind that Greene can't act her way out of a paper bag. Though that ability at least makes her the perfect fit for her male co-stars who are equally ungifted but for the most part less leered at by the camera.

So, to summarize: I'm feeling rather sleepy now.

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