Possession movies are thick on the ground these days. Independent offering The Appearing tries to offer a new spin on the old genre with lots of twists and turns and impressive imagery, but mostly ends up a muddle.
Will Wallace plays Michael, a disillusioned police detective from San Francisco who moves to a small town and takes a job as a Sheriff's deputy, with his emotionally fragile wife Rachel (Emily Brooks) left to wander around the woods near their new home. Right away, a young girl goes missing, and her boyfriend Nathan (Payton Wood) is the chief suspect. Michael gets a little obsessive about solving the disappearance, and doesn't pay as much attention to the fact that his wife is rapidly losing her faculties.
Michael and Rachel lost their daughter to drowning recently, and it seems at first as if Rachel's deteriorating mental state is due to grief, but soon strange things start to happen at their home: doors open and close themselves, she sees visions of strange figures and a little girl outside. And she's drawn to the abandoned Granville place where the young girl went missing. Father Callahan (Wolfgang Bodison) is skeptical that there's anything supernatural going on, but perhaps he's just afraid and ashamed of past failings.
Things go poorly for our heroes. Michael is wracked with guilt and doubt and frustration. Rachel goes on a self-destructive death spiral. Sheriff Hendricks (Don Swayze) covers up vital information in a bid to conceal his own crimes. And there are more reversals and surprise reveals than it's easy to catalogue. But it doesn't cohere. There are too many threads going in too many directions. The story seems to meander, not focusing on any one thing for too long, with a few too many philosophical musings and too little forward action. There's little to no buildup in tension, and no emotionally satisfying ending.
That's not to say that the film is a total failure. The performances are actually pretty good, though the dialogue isn't always at the level of the actors speaking it. Wallace and Brooks do well as the troubled couple, and Brooks goes all out for her possession / crazy scenes. There are also some very effective images here. It's a good looking film that makes the most out of its sets and locations.
But overall, it's a muddle. The good points aren't enough to overcome the bad points, so it ends up being only mediocre. Rent it.
Video is 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks pretty good. It's a little too dark and murky to see what's going on in a few places, and there is some very mild grain from time to time, and also a small bit of lens dirt in one spot, but apart from that it is a beautifully presented film. Warm colors, deep shadows. The visuals effectively set the dark mood.
Audio is Dolby digital 5.1 channel, and sounds decent. There are lots of soft sounds, whispers, footsteps, etc. that are necessary for the atmosphere, and these are delivered with subtlety. The score is much too prominent at times, though. Dialogue is always clearly audible, and no hiss or other problem can be heard. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish. No alternate audio track is included.
There are a couple of extras included. They are:
Making The Appearing
This runs to almost fourteen minutes, and includes interviews with director Daric Gates and many of the actors and crew. They talk about the story, effects, and getting to use the Psycho house.
The Appearing Trailer
This is a decent trailer, which runs 1:31.
Trailers are also included for The Possession, Flowers in the Attic and The Haunting in Connecticut 2
The Appearing is trying really hard, but can't quite make its slightly incoherent story develop the kind of drama and tension it's looking for. There's a lot of stuff to like: fun performances from Joe Estevez, Dean Cain and others, a committed and passionate female lead, and some great imagery. But it never quite rises above mediocrity.