Quick Take: Matt sums up one of this past year's worst wide released films with a single word: dreck.
It’s a pretty safe bet that if the first ten minutes of a film contains two separate seances, both decades apart sharing none of their nameless members and captured via different types of “found footage,” one is surely in for a cinematic train wreck. Somewhere within those ten minutes, it’s easy to surmise that someone in the movie-making kitchen had too many ideas except for the important one; the one that actually ties things together. Such is the fate of Writer/Director Todd Lincoln’s debut The Apparition aka Pretty People Looking at Things and Occasionally Each Other.
The film opens up with the aforementioned seances, which is about the entire back story given and all one really needs, right? The first instance takes place in the seventies and, judging by all involved, it was quite a lovely experience. They even take a picture with the ghost they conjured. How lovely!
Jump to the somewhat present and the second seance is going down, this time with science involved. A ragtag group of teen brains, headed up by Patrick (Tom Felton) Nolastname, who is hell bent on producing a spirit, no matter how much random tech jargon he must regurgitate. Since this is a horror movie, for some reason the pleasant ghost of the seventies has been replaced with some angry form of unseen nature that likes to make electronic gizmos go all freaky and make nameless blond girls disappear into the closet wall.
Now, apparently, the movie can begin.
Cut to sunny Somewhereland, USA, where we meet our lovely protagonists; Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan). They are your typical couple. She works at a veterinary clinic, although she isn’t a vet yet (don’t jinx it!) despite the fact that she owns the scrubs. Ben is either a terrible cable technician or secretly a male prostitute. The brief glimpse the film provides of his work life, it could seriously be either one. They love to do quirky things, like buying a cactus from Costco and playing Street Fighter all night in an enormous house that only poor writing could ever afford them.
Nothing scary has even happened yet, and I’m already exhausted on the white people and product placement.
One night the pair fall asleep with the Blu-ray player on (just like real life!), and the ominous ghost things begin. Doors that were locked will become unlocked. Furniture will move ever so slightly. Mold will grow. Cacti will die.
Seriously, this film is every paranormally related idea you’ve ever seen all piled into one spot and then Idiocracy’d to death until all sense of terror and tension are removed leaving behind a hollow, unoriginal mess for these pretty twenty-something’s to stare at and mostly ignore.
As the movie moves along, Kelly discovers that Ben may have had something to do with one of those earlier seances that you’ve probably already forgotten about since there’s been no other connection whatsoever until all of a sudden. The rest is more mold, reaction shots, looking at more things and a whole lot of talk about Patrick with little to almost no actual Patrick.
What I’m trying to say, kindly, is that The Apparition is a mess. It’s got somewhat strong cover art, I’ll give it that. What one might notice is the complete lack of pull quotes. If it were an honest cover, it would include things like “Sat on a shelf since 2010!” or “Given the smallest theatrical release of any film in Warner Bros. history!” I honestly can’t even believe they put it the 810 theaters that they did. I’m sure some suit somewhere looked at everything on paper and found his or herself saying, “We’ve got a Twilight star (Greene), a Harry Potter star (Felton) and Captain America’s sidekick (Stan). We can’t lose!” Yes, my friend, you certainly can.
The Apparition comes to Blu-ray with a video presentation about as uneven as the movie itself. Featuring a MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode, I’m not sure if the issues are transfer related or, most likely, a product of the film itself. Color tones are all over the place, sometimes changing within a scene. It’s almost like a saturation of sorts over the entire picture, but someone turned it on at random intervals. This sometimes even makes the blacks almost gray at times. There is still good definition and detail throughout, and some of the outdoor landscape shots are quite nice. Unfortunately those are few and far between.
The audio end of things is a rare bright spot for the film. Touting a DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track, The Apparition at least sounds like a good movie should. Ambient noise and all around creepiness are handled wonderfully by the surrounds, helping do more for the atmosphere than the movie itself could even come close to pulling off. Dialogue, what there is anyways, stays centrally focused and clear. The films soundtrack is quite nice and comes into focus and backs away with an ease that I wasn’t expecting of such “by the numbers” horror.
Beyond the Film
In theory, Warner Bros has given The Apparition a decent special features package. Four featurettes, all of which are presented in HD, are present. The problem is, all but one have nothing to do with the film and everything to do with Joshua P. Warren; a paranormal investigator who is about as obnoxious as the film is off putting. It’s like WB realized that no one was going to want to know anything about this film, so they decided to just film this guy that thinks he talks to ghosts for a few days as he talks about himself, ghosts, and then himself some more. Supplements package done!
The following is a complete list of all included special features:
- A Cinematic Specter (HD, 4 min)
- The Dark Realm of the Paranormal (HD, 5 min)
- Haunted Asheville (HD, 8 min)
- The Experiment of The Apparition (HD, 9 min)
The release also includes a DVD of the film as well as a code for an Ultraviolet digital copy.
In summary, The Apparition is dreck; boring, unscary, non-emotive and painfully unoriginal dreck. Its cast is bound to a near plot-less movie and don’t know what to do beyond “face acting.” Every aspect of the film is lacking, and it shows every step. For a film that’s barely over 80 minutes long, it feels like an eternity getting to the finish line. The audio end of things is surprisingly good, so there’s that. The picture is uneven at best and the special features are worse than the movie itself. Don’t buy it. Don’t rent it. Don’t even skim it in your future Netflix queue. You’ll thank me for it.
– Matt Hardeman
Shop for The Apparition on Blu-ray at Amazon.com (November 27, 2012 release date).