Just a general question: When has “connecting with the other side” ever panned out for horror film characters? No matter how many times we watch some silly paranormal investigator or ambitious psychology student try to make contact with the dead and suffer terrifying consequences, there will always be more. You have to think these people exist in a world where a movie like Paranormal Activity was released and the characters have probably seen it, yet still can’t help themselves from messing with beings they don’t fully understand.
I don’t know about you, but the first thing I’d do in a paranormal situation is think back upon every horror movie relating to my predicament, and act accordingly. Apparently the paranormal horror genre doesn’t exist in the realm of horror movies though, making it possible for the characters in its own genre to blissfully go about their lives and toy with evil forces for our own amusement, Todd Lincoln’s The Apparition being the latest entry.
It’s a shame The Apparition started out with an interesting premise, because after a good half an hour, eye rolling had commenced upon the realization that Lincoln was taking us down a completely different and much duller path.
Playing like a genre rip off of every recent paranormal type story – Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Innkeepers, you name it – The Apparition flatlines far before a conclusion can even be reached.
Lincoln’s ghoul follows the same formula we always see, starting with dickish class clown type pranks – like pulling a chair out from under you – and growing into more intensified tormenting, hiding out of sight and off camera. Lights flicker, we hear voices, the ghost looms in rooms just as our characters exit etc.
I mean, if a ghost did an extreme home makeover on my house and started combining my furniture into some surrealist art experiment gone wrong, I’d be more pissed than scared. Abandoning all backstory material and setting an unspecified ghost to mess with our main character’s minds, Lincoln never effectively sets a horrifying aura around his apparition, failing at generating any strong fear in the end.
Without placing all blame on ghosty though, The Apparition fails to drum up any scares at all, being just another watered down PG-13 snoozer. Even the numerous jump scares couldn’t get a raise out of the audience, showing the lack of atmosphere and missing tension needed to set up such supposed surprise scares.
The problem is, these horror tricks only work when a viewer is already on edge and expecting something spooky, failing when a viewer feels nothing but boredom and safety. Never once did I break down into the fetal position from Lincoln’s lax mood, reacting more with disinterest and complacency. I could acknowledge something happened, see where the movie was inevitably headed, but never actually muster the energy to question why or honestly care.
Leading actors Sebastian Stan and Ashley Greene weren’t fully to blame either, playing the couple tortured by the malevolent spirit. Stan is your stereotypical protective boyfriend character type who always puts himself in scenarios of impending danger, while Greene fills the role of typical frightened Hollywood female dealing with a ghost problem. Neither gave particularly bad performances, as both characters were the exact genre roles we’ve come to expect in such films, but nothing sets either young star’s acting apart from the countless other roles mirrored in a billion other mainstream horror films.
Tom Felton also appears in a supporting role as the paranormal obsessed Patrick, and to his credit makes the role as enjoyable as possible. Given limited screen time and a short supply of dialogue, Patrick’s knowledge and curiosity present the biggest spark of life amongst The Apparition. With limited screen time though, that light quickly flickers out. On the flip side, a more scientific script which focused on Patrick as a central character would have been a far more interesting story, as some of the best moments Lincoln creates come from the pre title card séance scenes.
As for the screenplay, Lincoln’s writing is nothing but a stale rehash of haunted house clichés and little innovation. It’s really a bummer when you sit through a movie distracted, only thinking about all the other directors who pulled off the exact same themes but with style and panache. Lincoln toys with the whole Jaws effect of not revealing your creature to create suspense, but again with no established terror to build up any kind of grand reveal, the (mostly) hidden beast just represents another misguided choice amongst recycled horror movie shot selection, not to mention with no explanation or knowledge. The unpredictable entity becomes confusing with his actions, tormenting without a rhyme or reason. It became too easy to write off encounters with the word “because,” a tactic which only translates to lazy filmmaking.
Every faux pas The Apparition commits stems from a general atmosphere lacking any vibrant heartbeat, creating characters and conflicts which are tragically birthed on life support.
You’ve seen Lincoln’s film a thousand times over already, and unfortunately you’ve seen it done better that many times as well. All Todd Lincoln can generate here is another Hollywood genre copy cat with no definitive characteristics or imaginative entertainment, one that makes a comparatively short run time into a marathon task of epic proportions.
You know a film is doomed when the first thing out of your mouth upon leaving the theater is “So, are we still going to Chipotle?”