City detective Michael (Will Wallace, “The Tree of Life,” “The New World”) relocates to a quaint, small town with his wife Rachel (Emily Brooks, “The Eugenist”), following her emotional breakdown after the sudden death of their young daughter. Michael takes a job in the sheriff’s office, thinking not much will happen in such a quiet town. However, on his first day of duty, Michael is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl.
It seems as though the exorcism horror film will never go out of style, as we have yet another in store. The Appearing tries to give us horror fans something that we’ve not seen before, but I don’t feel they’ve quite made it. Described by Daric Gates (the director) as ‘an homage to good, old fashioned storytelling movies of the 60s and 70s’, I can’t help but feel that the story seems a little patchy and unclear. On a similar note, the title – The Appearing – really doesn’t make any sense to me. Both before and after watching the movie, I am still unhappy with the title and it is almost as if they were just trying to come up with a random ‘creepy’ name.
Opening in true horror style, with a bunch of teenagers getting wasted by a creepy, abandoned house, this cuts away just as we can tell something horrific is going to happen – a couple go inside the ‘haunted’ house and are about to get busy when…Cue daytime with a pleasant policeman and his wife arriving in the area. On his first morning there he gets a call about a missing girl, which he sets about investigating. All of this is told alongside an apparent history of demonic possession that occurred inside that abandoned house, and his wife who has hallucinations and appears to be suffering from some sort of mental breakdown. The plot gets very messy, as perhaps there are too many elements in play. It was very ambitious to try to combine all of these pieces together, but that also means that sadly things get lost and muddled.
What stood out the most for me was the varied performance by Emily Brooks, who played the policeman’s wife. Not only did she have to be the cutesy, housewife, but the psychotic mad woman as well, complete with flailing and contorting all over the place. She did a wonderful job of this, and in interviews she even claimed that she did extensive research by watching every single exorcism movie on Netflix ‘and then some’, looking at real life exorcisms as well as learning Latin in preparation for the role. This is outstanding commitment and it certainly shows. I also found her comments amusing when asked if she was a big horror movie buff, she responded with ‘Totally, I’m such a sicko…I like to be scared, it’s interesting to me’. Well, keep at it Emily Brooks, because apparently horror movies love you too!
Horror and religion have gone hand in hand for some time, possibly as soon as horror even began. I thought that the opening quote from James 1, about human beings being lured and enticed by their own desires, was an interesting one. However, I don’t think this was fully explored during The Appearing, aside from the teenage boy raping his girlfriend (something which didn’t turn out to be a major plot point). There was a strong theme about possession and all of the usual scenarios turn up – strange markings appearing carved into skin, the demon using people’s turbulent past to rile them, the jaded priest who has vowed never to do an exorcism again, but then decides one more won’t hurt, and, of course, the exorcism itself. Not a year has gone by in recent times without a horror film relating to religion, and specifically demonic possession, coming out, and for this reason it is hard for The Appearing to stand out from the crowd.
I admire the passion that into this film, and Emily Brooks definitely deserves a round of applause for her work in this one. However, it is a fairly average film with no big scares in it and only a moderate twist at the end. It’s not terrible, but not too great either. Nothing was overtly ‘wrong’ with the film, but it could have been explored in a more coherent, gripping manner. Considering that it is the first big movie that director, Daric Gates has worked on though, he did an impressive job – especially managing to get Lionsgate to release it (who were also responsible for massive projects like The Hunger Games, Saw and The Expendables). Fair play to him.