The Apparition (2012)

(On Cable TV, July 2013) Here’s a bit of autobiographical content in order to make sense of this review: Growing up, the TV listings for movies broadcast in the Ottawa area included short critical appreciations by a service named Mediafilm, which ranked films on a scale of 1 (“Chef-d’oeuvre” or “Masterpiece”) to 7 (“Minable” or “Pathetic”).  Since Mediafilm ranks on a bell curve, very few movies earn either a 1 or a 7, and seeing one was a bit of an achievement. (For French-Canadians my age, the word minable itself remains closely associated with Mediafilm’s 7 rating.)   Mediafilm’s ratings are still used today, most visibly on cable provider Videotron’s online guides.  All of which to say that The Apparition is probably the first time in a long while that I approached a film (an actual film released in theaters, no less) knowing that it had received a minable rating.  The opening minutes of the movie easily confirm that it’s far from the upper end of the spectrum, as two separate prologues do a poor job at establishing an atmosphere of dread.  Soon enough, we’ve stuck with two young adults as they house-sit a mansion for relatives.  Given that this is a haunted-house kind of movie, strange and supposedly terrifying things start happening.  Somehow, though, the two characters remain far more terrified than the audience, all the way to a muddled conclusion in which taking refuge in a Costco display tent (no, really) fails to delay the inevitably grim ending.  Once the credits roll, the verdict is easy: The Apparition doesn’t have anything new, effective or even mildly entertaining to offer to horror-movie fans.  All of its plot components have been taken from other better movies, the execution is hilariously inept, the cinematography is strikingly ugly and director Todd Lincoln doesn’t have any idea how to make the most of the elements at his disposal.  At its best, The Apparition has a striking shot of a house in which the furniture has been re-arranged in twisted forms… and that’s it.  Sure, Ashley Greene looks good in a shower, and Tom Felton should ham it up in as many movies as possible, but none of this actually excuses The Apparition’s basement-bargain approach to haunted-house horror.  This is the kind of horror movies that give a bad name to the genre, string along the worst clichés of the form and barely presenting anything original, competent or engaging about the results.  While I’m a bit skeptical of Mediafilm’s 7 ranking (The Apparition is dull, but it’s not as stridently offensive as other terrible movies), I have no qualms at calling this film like it should: minable.

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