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The Apparition

Director: Todd Lincoln
Cast: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton

(US DVD: 27 Nov 2012)

The Apparition is a horror film that struggles to be original and imaginative. However, the film failed miserably with audiences and critics. Heavily panned by critics, The Apparition holds a miserable four percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Similarly, it has an average score of 18/100 on Metacritic. And needless to say, the film was a complete box office bomb, coming up in 12th place on its opening weekend. That said, The Apparition has a glimmer of originality that warrants a viewing.


As The Apparition begins, we see film footage from a ‘70s experiment that tried to contact the spirit of the decease Charles Reamer. Officially known as “The Charles Experiment”, it’s eventually revealed that from the six participants, three disappeared, two died, and one committed suicide. These scenes bolster the political ideology of the film: any horrors confronted by today’s youth are attributable to the irresponsible actions of the older generation.


Fast forward to the present time, Patrick (Tom Felton), Lydia (Julianna Guill), Greg (Luke Pasqualino) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), are four college students are trying to reproduce the original experiment with a novel twist. Following a novel experimental design suggested by Patrick, the electric activity from their brains will be read and electronically amplified. According to Patrick, the electronic amplification will have the same effect as a séance with 400 participants.


While not completely original, The Apparition explores an intriguing story that combines ghosts and advanced technology. As such, The Apparition brings to mind films such as The Entity (1982), Pulse (a.k.a. Kairo, 2001), and Stormhouse (2012). As expected from a horror film, the experiment quickly gets out of control and ends up releasing a terrifying entity into our world. In a nightmarish shot, Lydia is dragged through a solid wall, never to be seen again.


A few years later, Ben is sharing his life with his new girlfriend, Kelly (Ashley Greene). We are told that they recently moved to their brand new suburban house. However, the place seems to be haunted: a door opens on its own, furniture that moves through the floor, and strange mold appears in the walls. In a priceless scene, a neighbor tells Kelly that those are signs of a bad construction job. As the supernatural phenomena become more insidious, Ben, Kelly and Patrick use their knowledge in electronics to attempt to trap the malevolent entity.


On the surface, The Apparition seems to be a typical ghost story. However, there are a few hints here and there that appear to suggest that the filmmakers tried to create something original. First of all, there are many ideas that are straight out from the cryptic pantheon of H.P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre. For instance, Patrick makes the conjecture that the entity is older than any demon or ghost, hinting at the elder gods that populate the macabre Cthulhu Mythos. But even more significant is the eerie manifestation of the entity as an insidious mold that threatens to cover all the walls and floors of Kelly’s house. These spine-chilling images seem to be right out of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space (1927). And the entity might as well be one of the Mi-go, the vile fungoid creatures from the alien planet Yuggoth, described by Lovecraft in Fungi From Yuggoth (1930) and The Whisper in the Darkness (1931).


The Apparition also appears to be inspired by David Ambrose’s Superstition (1998). In this criminally underrated horror novel, a university psychologist conducts an experiment that produces a ghost. The ghost is revealed to feed on the untapped psychic power of the participants to create its own terrifying reality. Similar ideas are explored in The Apparition, as the hideous entity follows the surviving experimenters to feed on their energy and to learn about mankind’s most terrifying fears and weaknesses.


Finally, The Apparition aptly portrays some of the consequences of a creature inhabiting a higher dimensional space interacting with our world. For instance, doors are opened with the lock deployed. And objects are amalgamated with each other, creating truly dazzling scenes of people and furniture merged with walls. In the spirit of full disclosure, these images are similar to the ones previously seen in The Philadelphia Experiment (1984).


As such, The Apparition clearly manages to bring together a series of imaginative ideas not commonly explored in mainstream horror films. However, the most serious problem with this film is that it almost appears as if the filmmakers somehow lost the final reel. Indeed, The Apparition is a very short film, clocking a running time under 82 minutes including the end titles.


Even more dramatic, the film suddenly ends just as it begins to gather steam. By any means, the most arresting image in the entire film is the very last one, which also happens to be included in the trailer as an unintended spoiler. In addition, the last couple of scenes suggest a post-apocalyptic world, similar to the one portrayed in Pulse. Rather than an ambiguous open ending finale, The Apparition merely stops dead on its tracks.


Needless to say, the Blu-ray presentation is top-notch in terms of audio and image quality. Unfortunately, no substantial extra features are included. If not exactly a bad film, The Apparition is a really disappointing movie that ultimately fails to bring together a good number of interesting ideas. However, The Apparition may be perfect for fear film addicts that are tired of the same old ideas.

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Marco Lanzagorta received a PhD in physics from Oxford University and has worked at prestigious research institutions in England, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico and the US. During the past 25 years, he has conducted research in physics, computer science, and neuroscience. Currently, Marco is a research physicist at a major defense research laboratory in Washington DC, and an affiliate associate professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.


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