Wednesday, 25 June 2014



In recent years it's sometimes seemed that the art of a good solid scary movie has been lost. For all the horror films that turn up, few are actively frightening and unsettling, opting for the easier techniques of sudden jump shocks and splashy gore over the more difficult and far rarer skill of creating a genuinely terrifying atmosphere. I'd suggest that one of the secrets is to use the mundane and everyday: for all the corpses and Cenobites and hammer murders, the really horrible moment of Hellraiser is when Andy Robinson gashes his hand on a nail, because we've all done that (or similar) so we recognise that pain in a way we don't when it comes to being ripped apart by steel chains. Castle Dracula may be all cobwebs and dungeons and creaking doors, but an audience can empathise so much more when the mayhem takes place in ordinary houses and flats because that's where most of us live and that could be your bedroom.

James Wan realised this with Insidious (less so with Insidious: Chapter 2): a believable domestic setting works because we recognise it. The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh and (mostly) When The Lights Went Out pulled the trick off as well. And to a great extent, so does The Apparition, an efficient and effective haunting movie in which something is targeting a young couple in their brand new home. Right from the start there's something not quite right: moving furniture, mould growing on the ceiling, the neighbour's dog. Obviously it's got something to do with the ill-advised paranormal experiment carried out in the opening reel....

It's really not much more than an episode of Paranormal Activity, but it's considerably better done and far scarier, without resorting to the tired found footage schtick that got dull about a decade ago. Most of the time The Apparition works very well and achieves that delicious (and all too rare) feeling of "can't look, must look" that had me peeking through my fingers. One brilliant moment in particular has the heroine nailing a door shut to keep the demon out, only to suddenly find she's on the other side of the door and has nailed herself in with the demon. I enjoyed it a lot on a fairly sunny afternoon, if I'd watched it alone in the flat at 10pm I'd probably have had to switch it off and try to sleep with all the lights on. Well worth seeing.

[Slightly edited for bad grammar.]




The Instigator said...

I don't usually do this kind of thing, but I've enjoyed your site for a while. I thought I might comment on the name change a while back but my bookmark still works, so what the hell. Your reviews are generally well-written, this one as well, although I was a bit amused by this section:

The Apparition works very well and achieves that delicious (and all too rare) feeling of "can't look, must look" that had
me (OK)
peeking through
your (Wut?)

That calls to mind a rather surreal image. It certainly doesn't detract from the review itself. I thought only to point it out as you may wish to edit away the miswording. You'll need to delete this comment also.

Many thanks for your informative and amusing reviews.

Richard Street said...

Thanks - nice to know someone reads this stuff. Duly corrected!