(by Dustin Putman
Since "The Apparition" flounders miserably as a pedestrian cross between 2004's "The Grudge" and 2006's "Pulse," it might be best to start with the positives. In meeting modern young couple Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) - she is a vet's assistant, he's in tech support - the early scenes that set up their relationship and day-to-day lives ring truer than that of typical mainstream horror movie dumb-dumbs. Living in Kelly's mom's investment house in a dusty suburban sprawl being built on the outskirts of town, the two go out to eat every night after work, then relax with some video games and Blu-rays. On weekends, they do chores - laundry, gardening, maintenance - and shop at home improvement stores as they slowly work toward building their lives together. So far, this might sound more appropriate for the DIY channel than Fangoria, but so be it. In another movie, with a much better script, Kelly and Ben would be relatable, responsible twenty-somethings with a bright future ahead of them. Sadly, the film wouldn't be called "The Apparition" if longevity was in the cards. Article continues below
Faster than you can say "Paranormal Activity," Kelly's and Ben's humble abode is invaded by some kind of presence. They wake up to the front and sliding doors hanging wide open, despite having been locked. The bedroom dresser clearly moves when Kelly has her back to it (she can tell by the impressions in the carpet). A mysterious fungus begins growing around the residence, first on a store-bought baby cactus and then wholesale across a ceiling corner in the kitchen. Kelly is at a loss for what's going on until Ben comes clean. As a parapsychology student in college, he participated in an experiment that attempted to manifest a spirit into the world. He was too successful for comfort. Although he thought this was all behind him, classmate Patrick (Tom Felton) has begun incessantly trying to get ahold of him with warnings that the entity has returned. Deep down inside, Ben is already well aware of this fact.
"The Apparition" is technically the writing-directing debut of Todd Lincoln, though one gets the suspicion while watching the film that it's been ripped out of his hands due to severe studio tinkering (if this is so, shame on you, Warner Bros. and Dark Castle Entertainment!). For one, the movie that's been advertised ("Once you believe, you die!" ominously reads the tagline) is not the one seeing release. There is nary a mention of believing equating to danger, or vice versa. For two, the editing has been seemingly done with jagged gardening shears, the second half especially turning into a series of weak attempts at jump scares with only partial narrative cohesion. As for the ending, it's just bizarre, cutting to black before awkwardly tacking on a second conclusion - one that feels anticlimactic, but would have at least been a little creepier had the trailers and television ads not blatantly given the money shot away.
Save for peripheral characters who disappear at random, never to be heard from again - a single father (Rick Gomez) and young daughter (Anna Clark) living next door, for example - this is a three-actor affair. Ashley Greene, best known as friendly vampire Alice in the "Twilight" films, gets the lead here as Kelly. She throws herself into the material, screaming her lungs out on occasion (as when she gets locked in the garage with a looming shadowy figure) while trying to build something resembling a dimensional character. Greene is easy to like even when Kelly is awfully short-tempered, practically telling Ben to get out the second she realizes he had a hand in bringing these supernatural forces to life years ago. As Ben, Sebastian Stan (2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger") is outshone by his female co-star, while Tom Felton (2011's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2") either exhibits no spark of charisma or has seen his part harshly cut down in post-production. As it stands, his purpose to the story is minimal.
Again, it's a real shame Kelly and Ben couldn't be left alone to live happily ever after with their domestic home improvement projects. "The Apparition," which doesn't actually refer to any one vision or embodiment so much as an all-consuming evil, stumbles once the hair-brained pseudo-spooky shenanigans take over. Aesthetic specs are fine, with the cinematography by Daniel C. Pearl (2009's "Friday the 13th") moodily drawing the viewer into both the tranquility and isolation of the central location and tomandandy's (2011's "I Melt with You") music score setting an appropriately on-edge tone. It's just too bad the film itself can never live up to said tone. Once things start getting really weird - a truck is eaten by the ground and another character is sucked into a hellish portal - director Todd Lincoln is forced into multiple rushed endings without being given adequate time to explore his story conceits. "The Apparition" may run just 82 minutes (and that includes drawn-out final credits), but the picture's brevity can't hide what a toothless waste of potential it all is.