The Apparition is not a great or even good haunted-house movie, but it does have the advantage of a memorable setting. Rather than rigging another charming, old, dark house with scares, writer-director Todd Lincoln settles on a lone occupied unit in an isolated development of sluggishly selling Spanish-style stucco-and-tile jobs in an anonymous California bedroom community. “Our house is too new to be haunted,” Ben (Sebastian Stan) reassures his girlfriend, Kelly (Ashley Greene). “It has no history.” But this doesn’t prevent weird provocations by an initially prankish poltergeist whose presence Kelly eventually links to Ben’s covered-up paranormal investigations in the past. When found out, Ben’s “I can explain. . . . We were in college! It was just an experiment!” is the big howler in a movie full of them and suggests a rich, unpursued metaphor. Twilight’s Greene and low-rent Bob Pattinson Stan, though used advantageously for ogling purposes, are made to establish their characters by fixedly, idiotically grinning at each other, despite the fact that neither is saying anything even remotely amusing. Widescreen-literate Lincoln, making his feature debut, develops an anxious atmosphere of uncanny suburbia, culminating in Kelly’s wandering an empty strip mall in a smoggy, sunless world—but he might have consulted someone who has talked to a living human being before for help on the screenplay.
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