For a little while, I actually thought The Apparition was onto something. First-time writer-director Todd Lincoln begins his ghost story by tapping into a kind of homeowner’s paranoia. In an age of homes built with illness-inducing Chinese drywall and too-good-to-be-true foreclosures riddled with black mold, there’s good reason for young homeowners to be losing sleep. When Kelly (Ashley Greene) and Ben (Sebastian Stan), a young couple in their first house together, start noticing bizarre growths on their walls and in their crawlspaces, many a homeowner will relate to that sinking feeling that something is deeply amiss.
In fact, early on Lincoln seems interested in exploring the modern middle-class milieu. Kelly works in a veterinarian clinic in the most generic looking strip mall in America. She and Ben shop at Costco. We see them pushing their cart through the wholesale warehouse, absentmindedly buying a small cactus that they don’t really need. The new subdivision they live in is woefully underpopulated, a rather obvious sign of the times. They’re as boring as any two people could possibly be. So when these weird growths start showing up in their house, we expect it to shake them out of their tranquilized state.
Unfortunately, any first-act promise dissolves as Lincoln struggles to tell an ill-conceived story about a séance that conjured up a spirit from another dimension. Unbeknownst to Kelly, Ben and three friends participated in an experiment intended to make contact with someone from “the other side.” Led by paranormal activity expert Patrick (Tom Felton), the experiment was a high tech update of a similar attempt to rouse the dead in 1973, the infamous “Charles Experiment.” Patrick’s version proves so successful, one of the friends, Lydia (superbabe Julianna Guill in a too-brief appearance), gets sucked right into a wall. She’s never seen again.
When spooky things begin occurring at Kelly and Ben’s abode, it’s pretty clear what it’s connected to. Kelly eventually discovers a bunch of Ghostbuster-in-training gear in their garage and puts things together. Her reaction is more annoyance than the expected mixture of anger and confusion. The couple flees to a hotel, only to discover that the awakened spirit has checked in too and tries to shrinkwrap Kelly with the bed sheets. You’d think that all this might be a deal breaker for Kelly, but she stands by her man. With the help of Patrick, they try fighting back to reclaim their house.