March 25, 2014
Daric Gates, Matthew J. Ryan
Will Wallace as Michael
Emily Brooks as Rachel
Don Swayze as Sheriff Hendricks
Any film that demands four separate sittings in order to make it to the conclusion is a film you may want to avoid. Sometimes indie efforts catch and we find ourselves totally engrained, and sometimes they fail on so many different levels we’re left to do little more than perform the increasingly popular facepalm. Sadly, The Appearing is a whole hell of a lot closer to facepalm material than engraining. It’s simply too amateur to hold the viewer’s attention, and that’s unfortunate because there’s a slight hint of hope for a cool haunting/slasher crossover. It just never really materializes.
The gist of the story isn’t overly complex. There’s an old abandoned building, sitting all by its lonesome out in the middle of nowhere. But there is something alive in the place, and anyone foolish enough to venture into the old spot is begging to be possessed and fly into a homicidal rage. For one young family who are new to the area, things are going to go south, fast. Fortunately one of the new residents happens to be a member of law enforcement. Unfortunately for him, his wife isn’t. She’s not stable either, and she’s about to stumble upon the one place she shouldn’t.
Sounds like a concept that could work, right? Not with the crew involved.
Let’s start with the casting, which seems really, really off base. Will Wallace plays Michael, the male lead of the film, and the moody counterpart to Rachel (Emily Brooks). Both performers seem capable of fronting a picture, but certainly not together, in this capacity. The moment in which the two show the slightest affection toward one another is completely flabbergasting, because up until that moment, as a simpleton viewer I chose to rely on basic logic and assume he was her father, not spouse. There looks to be quite a sizable age gap between the two, and while that isn’t necessarily an oddity in the world today, we’ve come to expect something a bit different from cinema. Completely threw me for a loop. Even worse is a really flat screenplay that doesn’t offer either performer much wriggle room. Michael’s got some aggression to sort out, but he’s still only got two faces: angry and indifferent. Meanwhile Rachel’s character feels lost, which leaves her execution almost hesitant at times. Then again when you’ve got a run of the mill story to work with, it may be a challenge to elevate your game. Whatever the specifics may be, things just don’t jive coherently for The Appearing.
It was great to see Don Swayze on screen, simply because it’s impossible to look at him and not conjure up memories of Patrick. When he speaks, it’s eerie. That’s even Patrick’s voice. Wild, but almost special in a strange nostalgic sense. And I don’t aim to disrespect Don either, downplaying his own role in the mix of things. He turns in a fair performance that gets him by. It’s not fantastic, but it isn’t laughable. I like the setting of the film as well. It’s dense with foliage and looks extremely appealing, if I recall, there’s mention of a Northern California location, which looks believable. As a 25-plus year resident of Northern California, I’ve seen more than a single similar location.
But those aren’t the kind of things that make a special film. Special films have to fire without fault. They’ve got to run smooth and steady. The Appearing isn’t smooth, and it isn’t steady. It’s more like a wheelin’ session with your best buddy in his brand new, lifted truck. It’s everywhere. It’s dirty. And you never know when it may just roll right over, or get stuck in knee-high muck. I’d like to tell you this one never gets pulled down into the vacuum of thick, moist sands of dullness, but I’d be a damn liar. Not only does The Appearing sink, it can’t even be saved. The Gravedigger couldn’t pull this one out of the pit it drives directly into.
Here’s the thing: with an improved and tightened up script, and an alternate male or female lead (one had to go), The Appearing could have been a fun, overachiever of a flick. There are a couple moments screaming to be put together properly. I think if they were, they’d be infinitely more successful in manifesting legit fear. I mean no disrespect to co-writer and director, Daric Gates, but I think he’s got some more work to do before attempting another serious feature length film.