Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Ghoul Versus The Apparition

Harry Potter: Where Are They Now? Part One!”

One of my favourite things to do is go through the Rotten Tomatoes annual “Worst Movies” list and find the ones with the lowest ratings. To the surprise of absolutely NO ONE the list is always dominated by comedies because of how insanely difficult comedy is to pull off, especially with the talent level of "actors" available these days.

Horror is the next genre that is always well represented on the “worst of” lists, as it is also very hard to make one that isn't pure stupidity. Which brings us to worst non-comedy of 2012 as rated by Rotten Tomatoes: The Apparition, which only earned a FOUR PERCENT fresh rating. Damn!  More importantly though, this is the first movie in a series I'm going to be doing called “Harry Potter: Where Are They Now?” where we're going to examine they films of Harry Potter actors as they all desperately try to keep their careers alive in a post-Harry Potter world.

Taking the stage today is Mr. Tom Felton, famous for playing Draco Malfoy in all eight Harry Potter films. I know this isn't his first post-Harry Potter film, but it'll be a cold day in Hell before I EVER watch Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes again. A/k/a THE single most pointless reboot franchise in film history.

Let's find out why this movie is rated lower than The Devil Inside, the Red Dawn remake, and That's My Boy with A Ghoul Versus The Apparition! Hmm... that sounds like a SyFy Channel Original movie...

The following was filmed on May 21, 1973 when a group of paranormal psychologists tried to contact a recently deceased colleague named Charles Reamer.
It is referred to today as 'The Charles Experiment.'”

Don't be fooled by this, there is NO such thing as “The Charles Experiment”, it's JUST a made up thing for this movie. I wouldn't want you to spend your valuable free time on Google trying to figure that out like a certain movie-reviewing zombie who shall go unnamed.  I can forgive opening the film with a text crawl because it is a horror movie and that is fairly standard, but what immediately irks me is we start with “found footage” style scenery of a 70s style video camera complete with film sound effects and really choppy cuts.

I really have no idea what's going on, it's a group of people sitting around a table looking at a bad drawing of main in a suit. The table starts shaking as they all start smiling. Alright, well that was weird. We transition to two guys carrying a trunk full of A/V equipment to their two other friends who start setting it up. And setting it up. And setting it up. This is the first feature film from writer/director Todd Lincoln... I don't think anyone told him montages are supposed to SKIP over tedious things.

One of the two guys, Patrick, who is played by a nearly unrecognizable Tom Felton, tells a camera recording him that they are going to test the limits of “anomalistic psychology” by attempting their own high-tech recreation of the Charles Experiment. HOWEVER, rather than just attempt a séance with the dead they want to manifest a spirit into their world which is just the best idea EVER and could never, ever go wrong. Ghosts are always so friendly and benevolent, aren't they?

Rather than using a picture of Charles, they use a small statue that the young woman, Lydia, made. We get some thrilling footage of the three staring at a statue while the fourth guy, Ben, films them. This is of course to lull us into boredom so the movie can JUMP SCARE US! AHHHH, loud noises after a long period of quiet are TRUE HORROR, amirite?!

The table starts shaking like the one from 1973, as loud noises start emitting all over the boiler room they're holed up in. The statue starts glowing and then breaks apart. Their equipment shuts down as all the lights begin to power off, but one of them has a flashlight so we can get some horribly lit and incomprehensible footage of everyone being scared of some loud growling noises. We top this off with something sucking Lydia into the air and the film cold cuts to the title card.

Cue the credits.

That wasn't so bad, I don't know what Rotten Tomatoes was on about- oh, this was the OPENING? I see. What exactly was their plan when they summoned the spirit, then? Did they think it was going to be all happy-go-lucky and not want to kill them? I didn't see any kind of containment equipment anywhere or anything.

The real story opens on a veterinarian clinic where we meet the star of the movie, a young woman named Kelly. She's played by the absolutely beautiful Ashley Greene of the Twilight films, an actress who seems pretty talented but keeps picking THE WORST MOVIES to star in.  After work she goes to pick up her boyfriend, who is revealed to be Ben. They have ZERO chemistry and he is a horrible monotone character, especially when compared to the light and bubbly Kelly. We go through an insanely boring scene of them going shopping at Costco, where Kelly buys a cactus.  Thrilling!

Later that night after returning home, Kelly discovers the cactus is suddenly dead. Spoooooky! Ben finds some unexplained ash on their kitchen counter which he tries to clean up but it won't wipe up. Or something, I'm not sure because the movie gets as bored as I am and cuts away.  Kelly and Ben are sleeping on the couch when a breeze wakes up Kelly, who realizes their front door is open. She sees their back door is open as well, so they naturally go to investigate instead of immediately calling the cops like any sane person would. They sloooooowly and quietly walk through the house as I immediately prepare myself for another jump scare.

Shockingly though, it never comes. They call the police, who can find no sign of wrongdoing. Huh, I did not expect that either. The next morning Kelly is putting laundry away when the dresser MOVES ON ITS OWN. Did I accidentally put in one of the Paranormal Activity movies on by mistake? No, that can't be because the camera didn't linger on the dresser for eleven minutes.

Actually I think I did, as our next scene is Ben installing security cameras around the house. It's getting to the point where I can't even remember how horror movies functioned without cameras anymore. Also, I want to mention this film was shot in Palmdale, California and BOY do they want you to know that. Every three shots are panoramic views of the city and its surrounding countryside for reasons that I'm willing to bet will never be explained other than Todd Lincoln got some sweet ass discounts filming there.

Kelly and Ben are out in their garden when they notice the neighbor's dog Pepper wander into their house. Inside they find the dog sitting in their laundry room and growling at a corner of the ceiling. Pepper then lies on her side and starts dying. We go to Kelly's clinic where it turns out the poor dog has passed away.  More Palmdale Porn shots follow as Kelly is back home, examining where Pepper got sick. She notices the spot on the floor where the dog lied down is now cracked. She pulls the linoleum up and finds the floor underneath covered in mold. Ben searches under the house and finds the same mold everywhere.

Ashley goes to take a shower while Ben goes online to research the mold. He finds THIRTY-SIX emails from Patrick, imploring him to call him ASAP. Dramatic music starts ratcheting up as Ashley gets in the shower and Ben reads through the emails in chronological order.

They start off talking about they're going to try the Charles Experiment again and then quickly escalate to “Containment has failed, we're boned!”. Even better, Ben is told HE'S in danger now too. The last message, from today, is an email with a video clip attached. It starts off with Patrick talking about a cage he's built for the spirit, a psychomanteum, that'll actually contain it this time. We only see the rest from Ben's perspective, as we hear things aren't going according to plan and that something has escaped into their world.

And Patrick had such a great track record too when dealing with the supernatural. What's Kelly up to anyway? Hmm... hot woman in a shower, what happens? I'm going to go with the water turns into something disgusting. We see Kelly soaping herself up, completely non-nude since this is a PG-13 horror movie, which should be permanently filed under THINGS THAT SHOULDN'T EXIST!

We see the soap start growing the mold on it when she sets it down, but nothing else happens. She leaves the shower, the camera showing us a quick shadow of a person behind the shower curtain. She goes into her closet to get dressed, but then sees something that terrifies her. She gets Ben as it's revealed all of the clothes in her closet are now... tied into knots? Hey, don't laugh. That was voted “Scariest Thing Ever”... by the readers of Seventeen Magazine.

They both hear someone laughing downstairs, Ben grabbing a baseball bat and heading down there. Kelly suggests they call the cops because she's somewhat intelligent, but Ben is all “nah, I got this.”. They sloooooowly and quietly walk through the house as I immediately prepare myself for another jump scare.

I also should note any dramatic tension is completely killed dead by the framing Lincoln choose to use for this scene, which is basically the camera glued to Kelly's ass.  A lame jump scare follows, but I didn't even notice thanks to the camera's placement.  Kelly, who is growing smarter by the second, goes outside to leave. Ben grabs her by the arm, saying she can't just “abandon their house”.

Ben, of ALL people, should be doing EXACTLY that right now as he knows EXACTLY what's going on. But no, he's just an idiot so the plot can keep unfolding. Kelly won't stay in the house anymore... so they set up a tent outside? Hmm, I take back what I said about Kelly being smart.  She asks why won't they say what they're both thinking, to which Ben replies (and I quote):

“Kel, Our house is too new to be haunted. It has no history.”

YOU HELPED PISS OFF A GHOST THAT IS NOW FREE IN THE WORLD! How are you not getting this Ben?! The camera briefly cuts to the security display in Ben's room as the cameras flick off one by one except the one showing Kelly and Ben's tent. Shit like this always bothers me in these movies, how are ghosts from decades ago so tech savvy? Do you think when they're not haunting people they're just sitting back learning about everything? Do you think they follow sports? Do you think they have favourite TV shows? I wonder what kind of shows a sadistic and demonic hellbound-entity from the dark netherworld would find entertaining? 2 Broke Girls?

As Kelly sleeps Ben hears a noise outside and goes to investigate. The view shifts to the camera watching their tent, as it falls off the house and starts... crawling towards the tent? What in the world is going on here? It films Kelly and then cuts out to static.  Ben can't find anything so returns to the tent, but halfway there finds the camera on the ground. So it detached from the house, filmed Kelly for a bit, and then went back out? WHY? More Palmdale Porn signals the next morning as Kelly goes to leave for work, Ben trying to talk her down with dialogue such as:

“Houses make weird noises. Maybe some animal got inside.”

Wait, I get it. Ben is obviously possessed by the ghost because that's the only possibly explanation for his behaviour. He asks Kelly if she wants to move, and maybe she's also possessed because she answers “no”.  After she leaves we see Ben messing with the trunk full of A/V equipment from the beginning of the movie. I have no clue what he's doing, but he tucks it away in the garage after he's done. He goes to wash his hands in the kitchen, noticing a GIGANTIC cluster of mold in the corner. He starts poking it with a broom, the broken statue from the beginning of the film falling out.

He gets in his car and leaves, the garage door of the house opening by itself after he's gone. More Palmdale Porn follows as Kelly brings her neighbors a new dog from work. As she sloooooowly and quietly gets back into her car, the neighbor's little girl JUMP SCARES US by pounding on her window and saying “your house killed my dog!”. Creepy child telling the main character part of the film's plot cliché, check.

Kelly arrives, finding the garage door open and the trunk dragged out in plain view. She opens it and finds all of Ben's old ghost summoning crap, as well as a photo of him and Lydia and a hard drive full of video evidence that she hooks up to her Macbook and plays. We get to watch pretty much the ENTIRE opening of the film over again because we're obviously too dumb to remember it from half an hour ago. In all fairness though, I imagine a lot of people fell asleep during the first five minutes so a refresher probably isn't the worst idea ever.

Actually we're treated to the Director's Cut of the video, as we see Lydia melt into the corner of the wall when she got sucked into the air. Ben comes home around this time, Kelly confronting him over what she's seen. She's rightfully pissed off about him withholding the whole “we summoned an evil ghost” thing and kicks him out. He goes outside and tries to call Patrick, but gets no answer. Inside the house the lights start going off, freaking Kelly out. She pulls out a thermal sensor she found in the trunk, sloooooowly and quietly walking through the house while scanning everything.

Kelly pisses me off a lot, as she's one of the most inconsistent characters I've seen in recent times. One scene she's smart, the next she picks up the idiot ball and is dumber than a bag of rocks. And not even nice rocks, but the kind they have in the landscape at your local mini mall. Why is she walking through the house seeking the ghost out instead of doing some major GTFO action?

Her sensor picks up a human shape as the tension starts to build and JUMP SCARE it's just Ben. They go to a hotel to hide, Ben declaring they're safe even though it's brutally obvious the ghost is going to keep following them because this is a personal vendetta.  They go to sleep, Ben awaking to find himself suspended on the ceiling... above himself? Wha? He watches as the sheets start covering up Kelly and smothering her, and I had to pause the movie right here because I was laughing so hard. KILLER SHEETS? That's- that's what we're going with here?

Ben wakes up and it was all a dream. Or wait, no it wasn't because Kelly is still being suffocated to death. He fights to tear the sheets off her in what has to be one of the funniest visuals I've ever seen and saves her from asphyxiation at the hands of the world's zaniest ghost. How come I get the feeling that whole ceiling bit is never going to be mentioned again? They meet up with Patrick in the scenic hills of Palmdale, who proceeds breaks down the plot and tells them they're being haunted by the ghost they contacted. He reveals he modified the psychomanteum so he can safely stay in there without the ghost able to affect him. But Patrick has a plan, he's going to reverse the conditions of the experiment that'll lock it in back where it came from it... somehow. I don't know, it's really bullshit tech talk at this point.

They set up shop in Kelly's house, putting equipment everywhere the ghost made contact with them. Kelly puts one in the laundry room, where she notices a box moving of its own accord. She grabs a hammer and nails from the next room and nails the door shut, then realizes she's BACK INSIDE the laundry room? The fuck?! I don't even... that's not even creative, that's just asinine!

She starts screaming for Ben to rescue her as the BOX STARTS MOVING SOME MORE! OH MY GOD NO! We then see a solid hand knock the box over, and Samara starts crawling from the darkness- oh crap, why did I start reviewing the Ring? I apologize for the confusion, this is the Grudge. Kayako starts crawling from the darkness- RHARGH! WHAT MOVIE AM I REVIEWING?!?

The Apparition, right? I think? Ben and Patrick break the door down, Kayako now gone. They start the reversal process, the house beginning to crack and fall apart as whatever Patrick is doing seems to be working. All the rumbling and destruction stops as things get deathly quiet. I was expecting a HUGE jump scare here, but nothing.

Palmdale Porn transitions us to tow days later as the three have finished repairing the house. Patrick gives them directions to his house where the safety chamber is, “just in case”. Kelly and Ben take some garbage outside where they talk about how they have a normal life again, when you know inside the house BAD THINGS are happening to Patrick.

Sure enough, we go back inside the house where a closet door opens behind Patrick and sucks him in. Kelly and Ben enter, finding the house is now trashed and covered in mold. They jump in Patrick's truck and GTFO, heading for the safe room.  The door to Patrick's house is open, with a recording of his journals playing throughout the house because time is running short and this was the quickest way to convey information. He's going off about how the world they contacted contains not only human spirits, but those of “countless entities and malevolent spirits”.

They lock themselves in the safe room, which has a bed but no bathroom which really leads me to wonder what Patrick did when he had to go. The power in the house briefly goes off, Kelly discovering that Ben has vanished when it comes back on. She hears him calling out from the next room, opening the door and finding him melded with the wall.

She wisely hightails it out of the house, but finds the truck is melded in with the ground. She just starts running as Patrick's journals provide narration that the entity is getting smarter and more powerful with each person that it takes, learning more about our world in the process. He also says now that the door between worlds is open, more spirits will follow and take over everything by wearing people down until they surrender. Oh, so this movie is the prequel to Paranormal Activity! That's neat.

Kelly comes to a stop, as things get very quiet so the film can do a JUMP SCARE of Kayako jumping out and grabbing her. Or... not, as the next shot is Kelly walking towards the Costco from earlier in the film.  Um, I don't know what's going on anymore.  The Costco is completely deserted because... ahhh... she walks in because... uh, I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING!  She goes to the camping section and climbs inside a tent, sealing herself inside. Hands appear from behind her as Kayako grabs her- no, that can't be right. I know for a FACT this isn't the Grudge. It's Pulse!

Hands appear from behind Kirsten Bell... wait, she isn't in this movie. This can't be Pulse. No, it's totally Pulse. It HAS to be! Hold on, let me check the blu-ray in the player...  The Apparition! Geez, I can't believe I forgot that. Hands appear from behind Kelly and grab her to recreate the movie poster aaaaaaaaaand it's over.

Cue the credits.  Hey, what's with that tagline anyway?  "Once you believe, you die" never ONCE came up in this movie.  People got killed whether they believed in the spirits or not!  Also big shout out to the movie poster for TOTALLY SPOILING THE ENDING OF THE DAMN MOVIE!


Uh? What? I'm not quite sure I understood... well, ANY of that really. Let's recap this because for a movie that had NOTHING going on, there was a lot going on.

-In college, Patrick, Ben, and two others briefly opened a portal to a realm full of evil spirits

-Years later, Patrick attempted it again but this time blew the portal wide open and a spirit crossed over to our side. Patrick built himself a safety chamber so the ghost couldn't mess with him, the ghost targeting Ben instead because... I guess because he was part of the original experiment?

-The ghost, whom apparently is Toby from Paranormal Activity, starts screwing with Ben and Kelly until they're worn down enough so he can devour them. Then he does. The end.

Oh, I guess there was NOTHING going on here after all. This was pretty much every horror movie of the past decade: complete nonsensical bullshit ending, no real scares whatsoever besides bullshit jump scares, a PG-13 rating to sterilize any kind of real horror elements, terrible acting, absolutely NO attempts at any kind of characterization WHATSOEVER, and nonstop ripoffs of better movies.

Was there anything good about it? I'd say since it was only an hour and twenty minutes it was over quick, but this felt like a good six hour movie with how boring and horribly paced it was.  Pretty much the entire movie was "let's parade Ashley Greene around in skimpy clothing and count the money later!".  Tom Felton did NOTHING here. He was in this thing for maybe ten minutes, said his lines, and left. Between this and the ABYSMAL Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, his post Harry Potter career is off to an atrocious start. But he's still getting work, hopefully he finds his spot because he definitely has a screen presence about him.

I'd say avoid this movie at all costs, but since this is more like a “greatest hits” of better horror movie franchises you pretty much already HAVE seen it.