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'The Apparition' review: Hilariously non-scary

Zero stars (out of four)

In the astoundingly incompetent “The Apparition,” the most legitimate conversation involves a debate about whether or not Costco sells saguaro cacti.

Good news, green thumbs; it appears they do.

Pretty much every other scene—OK, that one too—reeks of the sort of nonsense that easily turns a horror movie into an accidental comedy. When a dog, staring into an empty corner of a ceiling, suddenly passes out, Kelly (Ashley Greene of the “Twilight” franchise) barely reacts at all, asking, “What could have happened to her? She’s barely breathing” as if she’s questioning, “Now, where did I put my keys?” The little girl with pigtails whose dog dies puts on a happy face when Kelly delivers a new dog for her, only to return and mutter with intended menace, “Your house killed my dog.” And when Kelly and her boyfriend, Ben (Sebastian Stan of “Captain America: The First Avenger”), suspect a supernatural force in their house, he grabs a baseball bat, and she proceeds behind him, pantsless and defenseless, standing so close that Ben probably would hit Kelly with the bat if he had to use it. I don’t know how you defeat ghosts, but smacking them with a bat would not be my first guess.

Based on the chemistry between Greene and Stan, they evidently met seconds before writer-director Todd Lincoln began filming his first and likely last feature film. Its sloppiness recalls “Jonah Hex,” and there haven’t been so many unnecessary shots in a movie since “Birdemic.” “The Apparition” runs 74 minutes and takes its time getting there. That includes not one but two prologues—the latter with footage that’s used multiple times—and several shots in which Patrick (Tom “Draco Malfoy” Felton) either attempts to explain words like psychomantium and anomalytic psychology or takes multiple sips of a beer, as if we need to see each pull so it matches up with how much beer remains in the bottle.

In fact, it’s all Coronas and video games when Kelly and Ben begin renting a house from her parents, and apparently that responsibility prevents them from taking much action with the whole ghost problem, since Kelly says they can’t tell her parents the house is haunted. (Plus, Ben, who we learn had plenty of information that should have made him take this threat much more seriously, claims that the house is “too new to be haunted.” He later attempts to diffuse the problem of growing, ominous, possibly vicious mold by poking at it with a broom.) Similarly, Patrick claims that he couldn’t alert his friends to a previous attempt to bring a spirit into our world because it would have skewed the results. Never mind that the only finding seems to be, “Oh, crap, we mindlessly unleashed forces beyond our control.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln includes a shot of a spirit crawling that’s straight out of “The Ring” and replicates the “The house isn’t haunted; you are” concept from “Insidious.” He also opens with so-called “real footage” of a 1973 experiment—but forgets to have anything happen. The physicists of “Red Lights” would have a field day questioning this paranormal activity. “Twilight” fans won’t be as thrilled to see Greene offering glassy-eyed delivery to virtually every line, even if some appreciate the gratuitous shower scene (in which a need for the camera to remain above the chest area means Kelly’s shoulders get extra-clean) and the extended shots of her walking around in her underwear.

No one will shriek, however, as she’s nearly smothered by a ghost-guided hotel sheet, save anyone whose preference not to be tucked in too tight generates nightmares about brief claustrophobia.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

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