It should be a happy occasion, the rehearsal dinner before the wedding of Derek White and Skyler King, he the son of the former warden of the Preston School of Industry, a reform school for teenage boys, she the daughter of a former guard at the facility whom she barely knew, her father having been killed on duty twenty years before, but despite the smiles Skyler is still in mourning for the more recent death of her mother.
Hanging with their friends Taylor and Nate after the celebration, Derek’s socially awkward but book smart younger brother Sam, home from college, shows them his latest creation which he calls APParition, constructed with material from the dark web: “It allows us to connect the living with the dead,” he tells them, and having had more than a few drinks Taylor laughingly volunteers to play guinea pig.
Guided by the application to the house of her later grandmother and suspecting a setup, instead Taylor finds an emotional surprise which prompts Skyler to be the next to use APParition, but her destination is the derelict building which links all their families together, Preston Castle, closed for years following the death of seven boys and the disappearance of the cook, but full of secrets and the restless ghosts of the past.
Directed by Waymon Boone from a script by Rob Rose from a story by Mark S Allen, Howard Burd and Boone, Apparition asks a key buy-in from the viewer, that Sam White (Grayson Russell) has created an application which can transcend the barrier between life and death and “open a kinetic energy portal,” the mildly inebriated credulity of Derek, Skyler, Nate and Taylor (Matthew Barnes, Annalisa Cochrane, Jason Woods and Megan West) insufficient to build the rest of the film upon.
A new spin around the Ouija board for the download generation which mixes Flatliners and The Devil’s Backbone in a familiar revenge-from-beyond-the-grave plotline, Apparition is a mixed bag which would have benefitted from a smarter rewrite, revealing the backstory in flashbacks as the characters discover it rather than as an opening act followed by a twenty year jump, though as the scenes of abused inmate Jeremy (Simon Lathrop) and kindly Anna Collins (American Horror Story’s Mena Suvari) are the most powerful, it is easy to understand why they open the film.
The performances varying even from scene to scene, the cast do their best but the limitations of the production are clear, none of the prison staff having apparently aged in the two decades despite their high-stress environment, and while exteriors are filmed at the magnificent Romanesque Revival architecture of the real Preston School of Industry in Ione, California, closed since 2011, the characters are ultimately sentenced to little other than wandering in the dark, screaming and dying.
Apparition will be available on digital download from 10th February