Review • Inept direction leads to false starts and dead ends.
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The horror thriller "The Apparition" is short, barely clocking in at 70 minutes before an attenuated credits sequence, but it makes up for its brevity by being one of the most tedious movies ever to advertise itself as something scary.
Writer-director Todd Lincoln, in his first feature, starts by suggesting a "found-footage" thriller with an old-school twist. It begins with grainy film stock of a 1973 incident, called "The Charles Experiment," in which a group of paranormal psychologists try to summon the spirit of a deceased colleague. But before that possibility gets rolling, the scene shifts to modern video of college students somewhere trying to re-create "The Charles Experiment," with (as nearly as we can tell with the dim lighting and shaky camerawork) horrific results.
Then begins what is, by default, the real story: Young couple Kelly ("Twilight" co-star Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) are house-sitting in suburban California, when strange stuff starts to happen. First it's little things, like furniture moving slightly. Then the menace grows bigger, with unexplained mold patches and the sudden death of the neighbors' dog.
Is the house haunted? Are the power lines over the house, which Lincoln obsessively photographs, carrying some unseen menace? Is Kelly a target of some supernatural force?
Any of these would be interesting avenues for a horror movie to explore. Lincoln briefly toys with each of them, and then moves on.
But moves on to what? Eventually we get some exposition about Ben's involvement in the second attempt at "The Charles Experiment," told to us by his paranoid ex-colleague Patrick ("Harry Potter" alum Tom Felton, without his bleached-blond Draco Malfoy 'do), who intones dire warnings of something that "crossed into our world."
Lincoln never gets around to revealing anything important about that evil something. He throws in a few arresting images, linked by an oppressive synth-heavy soundtrack by the duo tomandandy. But between Lincoln's ineptitude and the vacant prettiness of Greene and Stan, "The Apparition" becomes just a pile of false starts and dead ends that never build to anything truly frightening.
A young couple is terrorized by something supposedly scary in this lame horror thriller.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opened on Friday, Aug. 22.
Rating • PG-13 for terror/frightening images and some sensuality.
Running time • 78 minutes.