'The Apparition': Scary Bad
By Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
In 1952 the journalist Lillian Ross published the book "Picture," an exhaustive account of how John Huston's dream project, a film adaptation of "The Red Badge Of Courage," fell prey to all manner of potentially ruinous compromises and became, if not a nightmare, something of an ordeal for almost everyone involved in it, from the moviemakers to the studio to the moneymen behind the studio. I think of Ross this evening because I believe it would take a journalist of her powers to explain how the still-great studio Warner Brothers helped produce and is now distributing a film as lifeless, inept, and pointless as "The Apparition."
How did a movie with such a thoroughly evanescent premise, e.g., that there's this supernatural thing out there that wants to be in OUR world and once it gets IN to our world it's going to, you know, do scary stuff (no, seriously, that's pretty much the exact premise of the movie), even got what they call "green lighted" in the first place? How did the filmmakers come to hire Daniel Pearl, the cinematographer behind the spectacularly spooky imagery of the classic '70s horror "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and then set him to work lensing some of the most uninspired boogity-boogity imagery ever conceived for a motion picture? So many questions to be answered. And, you know, Ross herself is still with us, but she's almost 90, and last time I laid eyes on her she was looking somewhat disinclined to do much shoe-leather reporting.
So I'm not going to let these questions keep me up nights, because they're not likely to be answered. But they are more likely to keep me up nights than the weak scares in this film. The picture is about a young couple, Kelly and Ben (Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan) who, upon moving into a "Poltergeist"-evoking new housing development, start seeing strange, scary stuff: weird mold in corners, rotting linoleum, moving objects. Essentially it's like the house is becoming an average New York City subway station. Soon there's slightly more jarring stuff afoot, and then Ben has to come clean about how a few years before he took part in a psychic experiment that let loose the aforementioned supernatural thing. So it's not the house that's haunted, but Ben. This has the result of, among other things, putting Kelly in a pet. "Twilight" series supporting hottie Greene's idea of looking traumatized consists of acting as if she's her costar Kristen Stewart on "Letterman."
To do some weird magnetic thingie that will exorcise the supernatural thing, or something (and oddly enough, the movie itself omits what one would consider a vital plot point, which is in fact present in the trailer: that is, the supernatural entity gains its power by people believing in it), Ben enlists former experiment colleague Patrick, played by the onetime Draco Malfoy Tom Felton, who here seems to be auditioning for the title role in "Young Jonathan Pryce," which he should nail, only that movie is never going to be made. (Even though it would be much, much better than this one.)
In its final five minutes "The Apparition" actually coughs up a sequence that isn't entirely risible/contemptible, which of course makes everything that came before even more, you know, risible and contemptible. "That was stupid," a non-professional who attended the same screening was heard opining at the exit. I usually find that a reductive thing to say about almost any movie, but in this case, I honestly couldn't have said it better myself.Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.
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