The Apparition ✮✮
That Ol’ Slack Magic
by Glenn Lovell
In the mood for something that goes thumpity-thump-thump in the night? You could do worse than “The Apparition.” True to its generic-sounding title, it’s a low-budget variant on “Paranormal Activity” and “Poltergeist” that makes up in atmosphere and slow-build shudders what it lacks in surprises.
We open on three would-be Ghostbusters reenacting an experiment to contact someone named Charles Reamer. The high-tech séance, held in what appears to be a boiler room, has the expected consequences, with one of the students being vacuumed into the darkness beyond.
Flash forward a few years and team member Ben (Sebastian Stan) is living in a semi-deserted tract-house community with girlfriend Kelly (Ashley Greene). The place could double for ground-zero in a nuclear-test site; it’s that appealing. Ben, now “doing that tech-y thing” (installing home theaters), has been less than forthcoming about his student days, which complicates matters when the ghost of Reamer comes calling.
Todd Lincoln, in his directorial debut, shows the restraint of a young Val Lewton. Things go bad oh-so-slowly, leaving a frisson of dread: a new cactus turns soot black, a neighborhood pooch wanders into the laundry room, curls up and dies, the hangers in Kelly’s closet mysteriously tie themselves in knots. And if this isn’t enough to suggest ectoplasmic activity, the alienating POV shots and jangling, Vangelis-style score might.
The excitable Brit (Tom Felton) who spearheaded that fateful college experiment arrives on the scene with warnings of “EEG emissions,” and a plan to tap into overhead power lines to reverse the process that unleashed the entity. “Your house isn’t haunted ‒ you are,” he says, sounding much like the psychic in “Insidious.”
If after all this you’re expecting a Big Scary Payoff, you’ll be disappointed. Lincoln and company gamely try out-of-body experiences and rude bed-mates on loan from “Nightmare on Elm Street,” but they’re at their best conjuring smoky “Ringu”-like specters, the most memorable of which slithers forth from a washing machine.
THE APPARITION ✮✮ With Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton. Directed, scripted by Todd Lincoln. 82 min. PG-13 (for rather mundane shocks)