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Review: 'The Apparition' can't shake 'Paranormal Activity'

With 'The Apparition,' starring Ashley Greene ('Twilight'), comparisons to 'Paranormal Activity' are inevitable, and the comparisons aren't favorable.

August 25, 2012|By Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
  • Ashley Greene stars in "The Apparition."
Ashley Greene stars in "The Apparition." (Stefan Erhard / Warner Bros )

There is something haunting "The Apparition," stalking its dark corners and lying in wait to make itself seen. That something would be the wildly successful "Paranormal Activity" franchise, liberally and frequently borrowed from here as something of a default centering position.

After a brief opening explaining a 1970s parapsychology experiment that seems to set it up as yet another fake-found-footage endeavor, the film switches to present day and a more conventional movie style.

Kelly (Ashley Greene, one of those other "Twilight" kids) and Ben (Sebastian Stan) are a young couple setting up house in an income property recently purchased by her parents. Unbeknownst to Kelly, Ben had taken part in a recent restaging of that earlier experiment, and now the malevolent force he unwittingly unleashed into the world has come a-calling. As they try to deal with mysterious mold, shifting furniture, a closet in strange disarray and other unnerving goings-on, Kelly tells Ben in an unintentional laugh line, "My parents are counting on us to look after their place. I can't tell them their house is haunted."

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"The Apparition" is set amid the exurbs of California, where subdivisions and superstores fill the space between rambling undeveloped ravines. (The film's interior scenes were shot on soundstages in Berlin; the exterior of its main house is in Palmdale.)

Writer-director Todd Lincoln, in his feature debut, attempts to conjure an ominous sense of the mundane from the self-same houses, but much of the film ends up feeling like a series of establishing shots that never set up anything. Once the story gets inside, even specific shot selections evoke the "Paranormal" films, in particular the framing of a view down some stairs into an empty living room. The eventual revelation that it's not the house that's haunted, it's them, also feels like a retread.

At one point, the couple are about to get fresh with a backyard bikini-top back rub when their dog keels over. Later, after a tamely obligatory shower scene, Greene spends a long sequence running about the house without any pants on. Often in the film she is subdivided so that only her toned, bare legs are on screen.

If the film's basic formula is pretty people, creepy happenings — the CW meets the "PA" — it adds up to something lacking either body heat or visceral suspense.

'The Apparition'

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: In wide release

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