As summer draws to a close, only one film is brave enough to beg the important questions this season. Questions like “Why?” and “For exactly how much longer?” That film is The Apparition, and it stands at ready – waiting to be crowned as a movie that is, fearlessly and ruthlessly, 82 minutes long.
This achievement of indeterminate magnitude belongs singularly to one voice, one beacon of light emanating from the darkness: writer/director Todd Lincoln. He’s a filmmaker unafraid to stand at the precipice of the grandest debate: “Should I, Todd Lincoln, be allowed to write or direct a film ever again?”
His search for answers is furthered by the talents of Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga) and Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The First Avenger). Their Kelly and Ben are lovers fanning the flames of desire, jilted by a ghost of ill repute. Lincoln’s wise to spend time with the couple in the infancy of their new life together; spending their lustful moments deciding what they’ll have for dinner, doing grocery shopping, appliance shopping, opening a fridge, closing it, cleaning countertop stains. Greene and Stan are wondrous in these, the fleeting moments. A kiss becomes something more than simple chemistry when shared between two blocks of wood, knocking into each other like captainless ships in the night.
Tragedy strikes our heroes in the form of an entity so evil that its tactics are beyond comprehension. This is not a ghost to be trifled with. You’ll flee the theatre in terror as it moves their drawer one inch to the right. Your pants will know the warm embrace of urine as the evil ties Kelly’s clothes into knots; making it really, really hard for her to get dressed in the morning. Or when it puts vague cracks into the couple’s new linoleum floor. And just when you think your brain cannot be tickled with this madness a second longer, Ben will close his garage door… only for the entity to open it back up after he leaves OH MY GOD NO!
Answers come in the form of Patrick, Ben’s friend played by Tom Felton (the Harry Potter series). Lincoln’s film is a master class in “British men who know about ghosts.” Peter Venkman has nothing on the man who delivers lines like “The EFP meter is off the charts. I’m transferring power back into the grid.” Granted, you or I won’t know what that means. But Patrick, this prince of the paranormal, he does. And we trust him implicitly, as he is the sun with which The Apparition revolves.
It’s his Patrick that Lincoln chooses to explore with unbridled infatuation. When Patrick is not on screen, the viewer is commanded to ask, “Where is Patrick? Why is Patrick not here?” Indeed, almost all lines not delivered by Patrick are in some way related back to this secondary character. “Patrick is not answering his phone.” “The phone’s ringing, it’s Patrick.” “Patrick is gone.” “These are Patrick’s journals.” “We will be safe at Patrick’s.” “Patrick?” Patrick symbolizes Lincoln’s own artistic desires. A need to sort-of-but-not-really have the answers and, when tension reaches its boiling point, disappear into a void. Never to return?
Lincoln knows precisely what he wants from his actors; generating a level of breathless enthusiasm that can only be referred to as “being forced to sit with your cousin as he shows off his Sacagawea coin collection.” Of the lot, the strongest performance belongs to Ashley Greene’s legs. They’ll scamper, kick, skip and upstage the work of performers on or near them.
If perfection is truly the unattainable goal, kudos to Todd Lincoln in his bold attempt. His script feels but a scant 30-40 rewrites away from achieving such notion. With his Apparition, Mr. Lincoln’s crafted what I feel to be his seminal/only feature film – a film where a character nails a door shut to escape from a ghost. One can only presume that scholars will glance upon Lincoln’s grand contribution one day, as they scan their Netflix queues searching for something to watch.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Follow Tim on Twitter: @roboTimKelly