True to its title, 'The Apparition' arrives almost too quietly in cinemas this week though rather than being a marketing gimmick like how the first 'Paranormal Activity' built its cult status, there is a much more straightforward reason why this low-budget B-grade horror flick has come without any fanfare. It is flat out bad, no less than bottom of the barrel stuff, even if you approach it with the kind of lowered standards you typically take to such fly-by-night productions from Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment or Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures.
Indeed, it is from the former that this first-time feature by writer/director Todd Lincoln hails from, and suffice to say that despite being bestowed the rare honour of shouldering dual responsibilities on this film, it is unlikely that Lincoln will find himself with similar luck soon. His 'Apparition' shows none of the ingenuity or even coherence of Oren Peli's 'Paranormal Activity', one of the few horror classics that he tries to emulate in the course of a muddled and practically nonexistent plot.
After setting the scene with a 1970s seance experiment where a group of researchers used their minds to conjure the spirit of a lost colleague back into this world, the film opens with a similar procedure carried out by three amateur parapsychology students - Patrick (Tom Felton), Ben (Sebastian Stan), and Lydia (Julianna Guill). Successful they may have been, their efforts have opened a portal for a spirit to grab Lydia back into the netherworld. Fast forward four years later, and the story picks up with Ben moving into a new house with his current girlfriend Kelly (Ashley Greene).
Playing like a teen friendly version of 'Paranormal Activity', strange occurrences start happening around their home, including the obligatory flickering lights, shadows in the dark and moving furniture. Then Lincoln remembers a certain horror movie he watched called 'Dark Water', and the said apparition begins appearing as a black mouldy patch on the ceilings and below the linoleum floors. Further on, Lincoln recalls 'Ju- On' and the apparition turns into a black-skinned long-haired girl moving on all fours. But more frustrating than its derivativeness is how lethargic the whole affair is.
Never once do you feel that the threat to Kelly or Ben is real, nor in fact do you care for their predicament. That's partly because Lincoln doesn't know how to build tension even with a brief 75 minutes running time (sans the protracted end credits), and partly because the actors involved look plain uninvolved. And really how do you identify with characters who spout lines as inane as "Our house is too new to be haunted. It has no history." or the utter obvious like "Your house isn't haunted. You are."?
It is also too daft to realise its own stupidity, pretending to be much smarter than it really is by reintroducing science into the mix about half an hour before the picture's end with a lot of mambo-jumbo about electromagnetic waves and reversing polarity. In truth, the science in the movie is bullshit, and the more it tries to act intelligent about it, the sillier it comes off. Finally, when it has one of its characters Patrick urgently say that the apparition is some entity even older and more sinister than demons, you know that it is just grabbing at straws to try to reinstate its credibility.
The only consolation you get is that its ending is as terrible as you expect it to since the rest of movie is already that atrocious, no climax however bad can be considered a copout. No wonder then that 'The Apparition' has emerged like a ghost into theatres, without publicity and without any press previews. It has but one aim to lure unsuspecting moviegoers hoping to have a ghost of a scare before 'Paranormal Activity 4' swings around for Halloween - and the only scare it will offer is how shockingly inept it is. Yes, you won't find much of a movie here, just an apparition of several much more superior classics that have come before it.