The Apparition (2012)
My morbid curiosity, especially when it comes to horror movies, is one of my worst traits. Last January it led me to spend good money to see The Devil Inside. Last night it led me to pay to see The Apparition. It's not like I was expecting this to be good. All the signs were there; an awful trailer, poorly-Photoshopped poster, generic and unlikable twenty-something cast. It's also worth noting that the distributor, Warner Bros, apparently knew the movie was awful. After production wrapped in 2010, they severed their ties with the production company. Now after two years on the shelf, they've released it to 810 theatres - the smallest "nationwide" release from the studio since 2004. There has been little promotion, and the movie was not screened for critics. Once it did, it held a dreaded 0% for some time - it currently stands at 4%. Yet I still paid my money and waltzed into the theatre along with two other people. The three of us were privy to the mess that is The Apparition.
The movie starts with a text summary explaining a brief "found footage" segment that purports to show a scientific seance attempt. It then flashes forward to a group of college students repeating the experiment, and as expected, something goes wrong and an evil force crosses over and attacks them. Then we jump forward a few more years, to find one of the students and his new girlfriend now living in a nice house in a largely-empty "planned community" out in the desert. They exchange unconvincing banter and the girlfriend (whose name I didn't notice being said until the end of the film, and which I still can't remember) takes them on a trip to Costco to buy a cactus. But when they get home, the cactus suddenly dies with no explanation!
Yes, that's the big scary reveal of the haunting. A dead cactus on a desk. Things don't really get much more impressive, either. The two notice a standard assortment of hauntings, along with a persistent and mysterious mold problem. The story goes nowhere for a good long while until finally, in the second half of the film, one of the other people from the experiment shows up to spew exposition and laughable technobabble, proposing a ludicrous solution to the problem and throwing in concepts and plot points from nowhere.
I'll get the good out of the way first: the isolated setting is pretty nice and novel, and offers some interesting landscape shots. There's a neat Escher-esque shot during the second half in which the apparition plays around with physics. The mold as a manifestation of evil is kind of neat. And the concept touted by the poster - "Once you believe, you die" - has potential as a sort of Elm Street-esque plot hook. Now to refute those points; nothing very interesting is done with either the setting or the mold, and the Escher scene lasts for less than a minute and has no impact on anything. They, like everything else in the movie, are just sort of "there". As for the plot hook, it's nonexistent. The idea that the spirit only goes after people once they believe in it is not present in the film at all (at one point a neighbor's dog wanders into their house, lays down nonchalantly, and promptly dies). There's some crap thrown in at the last minute about how the machine-amplified belief of the seance attendees is what opened our world to the evil whatever, but the concept as promised by the advertising just isn't there.
So what exactly is there? One of the first things I noticed was that there was a lot of product placement in this movie. They make trips to Costco, store secret files on a Lacie hard drive, play their Xbox 360, constantly use their iPhones, and bring McDonalds home for dinner. Evidently these companies contributed to the film's $17 million budget, which it stands no chance of making back.
But mostly, The Apparition is made up of watered-down copies of scenes and concepts taken wholesale from other movies (apparently writer-director Todd Lincoln did some shopping for content at that Costco). There are shots and ideas very noticeably stolen straight from Paranormal Activity, The Grudge, The Ring, Pulse, Insidious, and more. One scene manages the dubious feat of stealing from The Unborn, The Haunting in Connecticut, and Paranormal Activity simultaneously and merging them together into one totally ineffective Franken-scene.
What's worse is that these pilfered elements never come together as a cohesive whole, instead being thrown into the mix seemingly at random. When it's time to copy Paranormal Activity, the boyfriend installs security cameras - and once that brief scene is done, he gives up on them. In one shot and one shot only, the titular apparition shows up in a closet as a crawling clone of Kayako from The Grudge - a development which is never explained, repeated, or even mentioned again. To get their fill of The Ring, a dying character has his mouth suddenly warp open into a huge stretchy scream like the victims in that move, yet another thing that inexplicably happens only once so they can tick that movie off their checklist. And when Mr. Exposition finally shows up at the end, his explanation for the motives and methods of the evil force is just a plot summary for Pulse that could've been read off the back cover of a DVD (complimented, in this case, by stolen shots of victims dissolving into walls as the evil force takes them). His hilarious technobabble bullshit "solution" to the problem plays out quite a bit like Insidious, which was gearing up for release as this movie was filming.
The movie is at least fairly fast-paced - it almost has to be since it's only about 75 minutes long without credits - but this is actually a detriment. Concepts and set-pieces are introduced, poorly executed for a single scene, and then uselessly discarded. Nothing really sticks. All the jumping around means there's no time to build atmosphere or mood. All we have for "scares" are one brief moment of mild suspense and a handful of cheap jumps.
Derivative horror movies aren't necessarily bad; if they execute their borrowed bits better than their peers, they can actually be quite good. But The Apparition is bad. The countless copies of other movies are so haphazardly structured and ineptly done that the movie seems less like its own product and more like one of those "tribute albums" that consists entirely of inferior cover versions of famous songs - the Kidz Bop of horror, if you will.
1.5 out of 5
1.5, wow that's generous of you.
The only good thing I can say about this movie is I laughed a lot during it. After peeking a few reviews before viewing, I knew it was gonna suck and boy it did it ever! But when I said the most stupid thing possible in my mind near the end ("we'll just do the ceremony in reverse, and that will send the evil back") and 2 minutes later Mr. Exposition says almost the exact same thing, I couldn't hold back the tears of comedy. Just complete shit, avoid at all costs. I got a free view from a library blu-ray and still feel ripped off! I want those 70 minutes back.
WTF happened to Dark Castle? They started with great horror redos and ever since Gothika haven't put out another decent film. Oh, in case you mis-read that, let make it perfectly clear how I feel about Gothika. It sucked hairy moose ass! I don't know what this sucked, what ever comes after hairy moose ass I reckon.
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