The Apparition’s something-crossing-over-into-our-world plot might not break new ground, but it’s far from the worst idea for a movie I’ve ever heard. In fact, there are quite a few details about the film that really work. The camera angles are frequently interesting. The visual effects are clean and well put-together, especially for the smaller budget. There’s a great usage of mold, easily the creepiest of all household annoyances, and the setting, a starter community filled with mostly empty houses, is clever, topical and the right level of creepy.
Unfortunately, none of this matters at all because the main characters are completely unlikable, and the momentum is consistently ruined by poor decision-making. The film waits too long to give viewers the backstory, adding confusion instead of suspense. It lets its male protagonist loudly swear while his girlfriend is on the phone with her parents, making him seem more oblivious and douchey than endearing and funny. It seemingly throws us in the middle of the action but then allows it to drag on for a few days, sacrificing both real time excitement and longterm character changes. And perhaps worst of all, it chooses to vaguely explain itself.
There is no worse thing for a horror movie to do. Either the ludicrous pseudoscience needs to be on full display the entire time with machine-building montages and impassioned speeches about the dangers of mutating rabies cancer, or the science behind the horror needs to be simple and accepted by the main characters relatively quickly. The awful middle ground just tempts viewers into playing connect the supernatural dots, and nine times out of ten, there’s no way to solve the puzzle. Shocker: The Apparition, with its late-to-the-party-speeches about frequencies and playing previously recorded material in reverse, is not among the exceptions. It’s one of the dreaded ninety percent. Nonetheless, I will do my best to be straightforward in my own plot description.
Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) are in the process of moving into her parents’ investment property. She’s studying to be a vet, and he’s trying to figure out what the hell is going on with their new house. It’s been acting weird. Doors are opening on their own, security cameras are falling down. It could be jackass neighborhood kids, or it could be an unknown entity trying to slide into our world.
Of course, it eventually gets to the point where no one can deny the scariness of what’s transpiring. The unknown entity commits a few felonies, and plans are put into motion for one final showdown. Patrick (Tom Felton), a buddy from Ben’s past, is called in from the bullpen to lend a hand (and offer a better than expected acting performance), and the climax brings with the underwhelming confrontation we’ve all been expecting since we saw the first trailer.
The Apparition is not the worst movie that will be released this year, but Kelly and Ben may well be the worst couple. Greene and Stan have almost no natural chemistry, and the writing certainly doesn’t do them any favors. The film’s first fifteen minutes are a long series of conversations meant to be cute, but they play more like reasons to break up. She tries to buy useless crap she doesn’t need in Costco. He breaks things and loudly stomps around with his mopey face. Horror films might not be known for their character development, but there needs to at least be a reason to laugh or smile with these people now and again. If there’s not, there’s no reason to be scared for them later.