Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
September 2012

The Apparition

The lamest haunted house ever

In 82 long minutes, 'The Apparition' can't conjure a single idea

The Apparition
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Todd Lincoln
Screenplay: Todd Lincoln
Starring: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Rick Gomez and Anna Clark
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 22 minutes
(out of four)

The Apparition is not a movie. It is, I concede, a series of moving pictures that runs approximately 90 minutes. And it has its very own title; and commercials were made to tell people about it; and someone even made a poster for it. All of these things are true.

But a movie this is not. No, what happened here was, some people shot some actors doing stuff on camera, and then someone(s) edited it all together in some kind of arbitrarily designed order, and then they slapped some music on top of it. And then someone even went in and typed in people's names at the beginning - you know, "credits" - and again, just to be safe, did so at the end as well. And when they were finished with all of that, they called it a movie.

OK, maybe it's a vague simulacrum of a movie, but that's not the same thing. A movie - or at least a movie of the type The Apparition is trying to be, or thinks it's trying to be, or thinks it is - would have a purpose, a point, an objective, an idea, a design, an intention, or a reason for being. It has none of those things.

What it does have is a tagline, as all movies must. So let's take a look at that tagline, shall we? Good, I'm glad you're all on board. Here it is: "Once you believe, you die."

Hmm. Not bad, not bad. A horror movie that taps into the human psyche as it pertains to fear, perception, belief - a story centered around the concept of believing something into existence, conjuring a tangible threat virtually out of thin air just by believing it to be so. The ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy. Like clapping for Tinker Bell, except that it ends in your bloody death. (That's what you get for clapping, you suckers.) (Hey, imagine if that's what happened at the end of Peter Pan. My childhood would have been much different.) (But I digress.)

The trailers for The Apparition seem to confirm this premise. Except the film itself offers nothing of the sort. I repeat: This concept is not present in the actual movie.

I can't criticize a movie for not fulfilling whatever it promises in a trailer - by all means, surprise me! - but I can criticize a movie for being about nothing at all. This one dances around the edges of the aforementioned premise, but all it really boils down to is a guy trying (all too successfully) to communicate with those "on the other side," who of course "cross over" (or whatever they're calling it these days) and begin terrorizing people.

Big deal. There are hundreds of movies with that very same idea. This one had a chance to go beyond that and delve into more fertile material. But you know how trailers usually dumb things down? This time it's the opposite. The trailer for The Apparition is a thousand times smarter than the movie itself. At least the trailer had ideas. Well, one, anyway. Which is one more than the movie has.

I don't know whether this is just bad marketing, or the result of a film being butchered in the editing room. Maybe - in fact, in all likelihood - the psychological aspects of the premise were the root of the original concept, and for some reason all of that was cut. It's certainly not unprecedented. (Remember the supposed "untold story" of The Amazing Spider-Man?) The obvious question would be why. Surely no one could watch this movie and not realize it was terrible - could the originally conceived version have possibly been worse?

The film we get is a virtual black hole. A boy and a girl move into a house. Strange things start happening around the house. Boy admits this is all happening because of a college experiment he pulled with his friends. Boy calls his old cohort Draco Malfoy to help him, you know, cleanse the house of spirits or something. End of movie. Virtually nothing about the whole psychological thing.

But the sound design is good. And there are a few nice visual ideas that get lost in the shuffle of the movie's thematic nothingness. The Apparition desperately attempts to be merely mediocre, and it can't even manage that.

Truthfully, even if the film had followed through on its supposed concept, I don't think it could have made up for Ashley Greene's lead performance, which I can generously describe as a performance in a movie. Then again, to go that far I'd have to acknowledge that The Apparition is actually a movie in the first place. Try as I might, I just can't believe that fact into existence.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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