Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Apparition [2012]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  The Onion/AV Club (D)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB's review
The Onion/AV Club review

The Apparition [2012] (written and directed by Todd Lincoln) seems me to be a thoroughly average post-Paranormal Activity [2007] low budget horror film. This is not to say that the current film is simply a "knock-off" of the PA franchise.  As a decent enough "genre film," The Apparition does pay homage to some of the genre's tried-and-true formulaics (notably in terms of subtext) even as it tries (perhaps even quite boldly) to advance the genre as well.  Where The Apparition fails perhaps is in execution.  But then, The Apparition aims simply to be a "b-movie" in our time.  It didn't have the budget to execute better than it did. 

Subtext.  One thing that The Apparition does better than the Paranormal Activity franchise is that there is actually discernable subtext to the current film something that was largely lacking in the PA franchise.   The first Paranormal Activity [2007] film simply played itself out in a random house in a random subdivision in suburban San Diego in Southern California.  In contrast, The Apparition, while borrowing from the PA franchise its "house" setting, anchors itself in two phenomena in America (post-2008 Financial Crisis) today:

(1) The house in which the two protagonists live is in a _largely empty_ subdivision at the edge of the Southern California metropolis, empty because the housing crash resulted in a collapse in new home construction and in a wave of foreclosures among those who owned (or speculated on the prices of) existing homes.  So the two find themselves living in basically a "ghost subdivision."

(2) The two principal protagonists of the story live in the house that they do (in that "ghost subdivision") on behalf of one of their parents to both try to protect what's left of that previous investment (so that it's not completely lost) and because as students (or recently graduated students) they simply can't afford to live anywhere else.  (The whole Occupy Movement of the Fall of 2011 was largely driven by students'/young people's anxieties over student debt and their future).   So even before the two protagonists. Ben (played by Sebastian Stan) and Kelly (played by Ashley Greene), find the house in which they are living in to be "haunted" in a particular way, they are already dealing with multiple levels of anxiety. 

Now why is the house haunted?  Here in the tradition of American b-movie horror films, writer-director Todd Lincoln seeks (perhaps) to develop "demon motiff" (obviously) present in the Paranormal Activity franchise and perhaps other recent films like Insidious [2011].  Who are these demons?  And why would they entering into this world?  (POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT)  Without getting into too much detail here, The Apparition suggests that these entities, if certainly "driven" and arguably "hungry", they are not necessarily "demons" in the classical sense (ie "they are simply Evil").  Instead, writer-director Todd Lincoln suggests that they may simply "entities from another plane" whose motivations we presently don't understand (something more akin to the entities from the sci-fi Predator franchise).  This is an interesting, arguably "scientific" approach to what has previously been relagated to the realm of, well, Religion :-).

As a Catholic priest, I do find Todd Lincoln's idea interesting.  However, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't necessarily want to pursue the "study" of these "beings from another plane."  Science has brought us enough problems with "containment" of "toxic materials" and preoccupations with their "safe handing/disposal" as it is.  And indeed, once Ben and his friends realize that they had inadvertently opened a path for these "beings from another plane" to enter into our world (through a bone-headed, "seance" that they conducted while still in college some time back), some of them begin to use the language of "containment" to seek (of course futily...) to put a lid on the problem.

Anyway, The Apparition [2012] is not by any means a "great movie."  Instead, it seeks to be a "b-movie," of the type that was famous in the 1950s-60s when Invaders from Mars [1953], The Blob [1958] and so on were the rage.  And yet those movies, like this one, were rooted in anxieties of their time.

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  1. I'd paint this one closer to Devil Girl From Mars, but your point is well taken. You're right on the subtext, but the film doesn't do anything interesting with that anxiety. Any attempts to go further just loop back around.

    Anyway, this is the most positive review of the movie I could find, so thank you for the different perspective.

  2. I keep hearing it’s a horrible movie, and it stinks because I was looking forward to the storyline. Sadly, as with many of the latest horror movies, I was convinced by the trailer that it was worth seeing. One of my Dish coworkers who saw the trailer also thought it’d be good enough to watch. I will probably wait until it comes out on DVD and add it to my Blockbuster @Home queue to have it mailed to me. I think I will see The Possession this weekend instead! Nice read!