*/**** Image B Sound B+ Extras HILARIOUS
starring Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Julianna Guill
written and directed by Todd Lincoln
by Walter Chaw I think you enter into a handshake agreement with The Apparition that it's never, not for a moment, going to be scary when in its prologue, we're introduced to Harry Potter alum Tom "Draco" Felton as a grad student or something in a Doc Brown helmet prattling on about "anomalistic psychology" in that affected, pained way the Harry Potter alums (see: Emma "Hermione" Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower) seem to have adopted post-franchise. Or maybe it's the first scene between central pretties Kelly and Ben (Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan), which, without fail, sports extra, meaningless, unintentionally hysterical blank reaction shots, thus announcing, in addition to hyphenate Todd Lincoln's inability to cast, his inability to frame shots or hire an editor (or three, as the case may be). To The Apparition's credit, though, milquetoast hero Ben is wearing the Bauhaus T-shirt I used to wear in high school when I wasn't trying to be hip, so...yay for being old enough to have a direct connection to a hipster reference. As for the rest of it, it's kind of astonishing that this didn't land as a dtv relic submitted for the immediate disapproval of the Netflix-streaming peanut gallery.
Kelly is a brisk, no nonsense, fun-loving sex kitten interested in video games and post-Code innuendo in attempts to ratchet up her desirability high enough to make her inevitable imperilment tense. But it's not tense--especially when Lincoln does a dog reaction shot and then a few long takes of the type that work in movies by Beat Takeshi and, okay, Ozu, but don't really do shit in a Poltergeist rip-off sans children or Spielberg's sense of suburbia on the ropes. Kelly's boyfriend is Ben, who has a deep, dark secret. (No, he's not gay, though a great argument could be made that the lost relevance of The Apparition lies in the suggestion that the whole thing is a coming-out parable.) Ben, along with Draco Malfoy and hot girlfriend Julianna Guill (abducted to the, spoiler alert, camping section of Cabellas), summoned something from the void while he was a graduate student in Cthulhu Mythos at Miskatonic U. That something has followed Ben (and by default Kelly) to a development community in a California desert, where the couple's tasked with doing something with Kelly's parents' giant house. Hey, Ben also has my Misfits poster. Me and Ben should hang. And all that Lovecraft stuff? Doesn't happen, I'm just being an asshole.
The apparition, because it's lame, spends a lot of its time tying clothes into knots, moving dressers, and opening doors--things that are only marginally scary, despite the requisite horror-movie scoring (which sounds a little like when my 6-year-old discovered the left side of the piano) and glazed expressions. Watching Greene and Stan Actor's Studio their way through complex levels of fear and understanding is one of those things I'd recommend you see for yourself, because there's really no analog to the experience. A couple of times I thought Stan was working a loose tooth, and that Greene had stepped on a dead woodchuck but that it was her job to not let anyone know she had...and that she wasn't doing a very good job of it. There are ghostly footsteps, Greene in lingerie threatening to run off into the night, disembodied voices, camping equipment, and tons of expository dialogue around Ben trying to talk Kelly into not leaving even though chairs are poking out of the walls and--I mean, seriously--the dry-rot in this place is ridiculous. Things escalate, as they are wont to do, lots of basso profundo electric piano, Malfoy shows up again, and then the picture decides in the last fifteen minutes or so to create a new mythology around itself so that the big emptiness you feel once it's over is "I wonder if I missed something in the hour I was sleeping" instead of the more sensible "Welp, glad that's over." The Apparition is a time machine: Pop it in and you're 80 minutes older with no perception of where the time's gone.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Warner ushers The Apparition unceremoniously onto next-gen in a 2.40:1, 1080p Blu-ray transfer that is absolutely smooth and featureless, not because the image has been DVNRd to death (although I'm surprised to discover the picture was shot in 35mm) so much as that the digital colour palette is "late-era Bush video." It's drabtastic, but very much purposefully. The soundtrack, conventional in every way, is the "saving grace" of the A/V presentation, in that there's more life to the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track than anything else in the production. It has strong directional sense and makes good use of the lower registers. Of course, good sound is a double-edged sword when it's used to recreate dialogue exchanges like this:
"Mike, I'm so sorry."
"Kelly, I appreciate your help."
Todd, you've got to be kidding me.
"The Apparition: A Cinematic Specter" (4 mins., HD) is the first of a few hilarious extras on this disc featuring real-live ghost hunter Joshua P. Warren, who haunts the set making sure that the depictions of bullshit featured herein are absolutely accurate. We see Warren looking at stuff with a furrowed brow; we get the complete introduction to his radio show. Tom Felton chimes in, saying the film "bases itself around the supernatural"--which would be a lot more amusing if it weren't tinged with an element of the pathetic. "The Dark Realm of the Paranormal" (5 mins., HD) has Warren talking about the EIGHTH DIMENSION and how "ALL SCIENCE IS THE STUDY OF THE PARANORMAL" and how humans are not a solid form and we morph and have fields of energy and THEREFORE we're not separate from our environment! We're part of nature! You, me, the tree, that rock. Yes. Size matters not. Judge Warren by his size, do you? And well you should not. "Haunted Asheville" (7 mins., HD) is Warren on a ghost-hunting expedition that gets interrupted by a rainstorm, while "The Experiment of The Apparition" (9 mins., HD) is Warren trying to move a little doodad with his BRAIN WAVES, just like in The Apparition. It's all ridiculous, but it's even funnier than the funny movie it decorates. Enjoy. The obligatory DVD and Digital Copy fill out the package.