Apparitions, (not to be confused with Apparition) opens with scenes of domestic tranquillity turned into a houseful of dead bodies by someone, or something unseen. The only survivor is a young girl. We soon find out that what we were seeing is the now-grown Lily (Cate O’Connor) having a flashback before her college graduation.
That explains why the only ones she has there for her at the ceremony are her best friend Alice (Shanon Kulupach, Spin Out) and Jane Wilkes (Perri Cummings, Trench, Shotgun) a cop who worked on the case. After finding out her boyfriend didn’t make it because he was with another woman she goes home to find a letter from a lawyer concerning her old home. So she decides to go back despite her better judgement and the warning of Tom (Stefan Dennis, Neighbours, 50 Kisses) and Marlee (Kristina Benton, How to Time Travel) who work at a bar she stops at for directions.
Writer/directors Perri Cummings and Paul Anthony Nelson who have worked together on Trench as well as several shorts start Apparitions off in a fairly standard fashion. Some of the flashback footage is quite effective with the camera prowling Evil Dead style through the woods around the house. Plotwise though it’s all very familiar, flashbacks, hallucinations, a scene where Lily only sees half of what’s going on while we see it all, and the inevitable warnings from the locals. As I said, very familiar, but at least it’s well done.
Filmed over 24 days with a main cast of 7 and a small but ridiculously talented crew, the company faced rain, hail, wasps — and a scratchy-tongued pub cat who wanted to be adopted by the crew — to create this fun Australian road trip through the history of horror. We hope you enjoy it.
It’s not until she actually reaches her destination that Apparitions starts to change. As Lily checks out the house we get an extended sequence of Alice trying to convince Jane to go with her out to the house. This fills us in on some of Lily’s backstory and starts to cast events in a somewhat different light. It seems her parents weren’t the only ones around her to come to a mysterious end. Although it would seem most of them, such as a lecherous math teacher, met their fate before they could harm her, as though she had a guardian angel that played for keeps.
It’s this straddling of the line between supernatural horror and slasher tropes that keeps Apparitions interesting. By the final act, I could easily see the killer being a human, be it Lily or someone else, as easily as I could see it being a ghost. They could have worked that ambiguity a bit better, especially in terms of potential suspects, but a tight budget and small cast make that problematic.
Helping all of this along is some effectively creepy night photography from cinematographer Tim Egan (The Bazura Project) and some impressive effects work. There isn’t a lot of gore in Apparations, but what we do see, especially those related to her parents’ deaths, are well done.
Apart from the sudden, last-minute introduction of the hulking Martin (Wayne Tunks, Fragmentary, The Casting Game) which seems a bit too convenient and the second act scenes between Alice and Jane going on a bit too long and slowing things down, Apparitions mostly works. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it should keep viewers entertained.