Ben (Sebastian) and Kelly (Ashley Greene) have moved to a sleepy suburb to live in her parents’ investment property. But, you know, new houses always have problems: doors that seem to blow open for no reason, a laundry room that kills the neighbor’s dog. Kelly wonders what’s wrong but Ben suspects pretty quickly that it might have something to do with an experiment he ran back in college. The goal of the experiment was to use the focused brain power of a trio of psych students to contact the “other side.” Perhaps they accidentally all focused their brain power on grisly death.
Yes, I realize I’m spoiling things left and right. Even if I didn’t, there isn’t one surprising minute about this ghost story, which is so slight that even the movie seems to forget what the original point of the whole college experiment set-up was.
The Apparition actually has one really cool thing going for it: location. It takes place in Palmdale, a desert-y exurb of Los Angeles. The core of the L.A. area is actually a ways away (a little over an hour according to MapQuest, but my experiences with traffic traveling about half that route suggests that is a wildly optimistic estimate). The movie gives the area a real edge-of-nowhere feel, all nondescript shopping plazas and an ocean of stucco homes with red tile roofs. The housing development, or at least their section of it, that the characters live in is, they say, nearly deserted — a ghost town of the Great Recession. We are shown power lines running through the area and can hear the buzz they give off. It is eerie, a specific kind of desert-town eerie where the menace of economic ruin is just as great as the menace of a spooky whatever. It’s actually a great setting for a horror movie, the economic downbeat version of the locations in Paranormal Activity.
But the movie doesn’t really make good use of any of this. Instead, we get a very low-rent version of Paranormal Activity — lights that go on and off, doors that open mysteriously. There is no real suspense, nothing fun about the way the ghost story is told and certainly nothing interesting about the characters. (Hang on to that Twilight money, Ashley Greene. I recommend conservative investments and clipping coupons.) You don’t need a lot of money or big stars to make horror work out, but you do need interesting ideas and a story that hooks the audience. The Apparition is an example of how to do low-budget horror all wrong. D
Rated PG-13 for terror/frightening images and some sensuality. Written and directed by Todd Lincoln, The Apparition is an hour and 22 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros.