The Appeared

Well produced, well acted, ultimately not scary horror effort.

Released in 2007, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 17 Jun 2008 by Scott Morris
The Appeared image

Argentinian horrors, then. Can't say I know too much about that particular nation's output, but I think it's probably fairly safe to assume that most of them are dreadful, on the rationale that it's generally fairly safe to assume that most horror films are generally awful. This sweeping generalisation damning an entire sector of filmmaking aside, the particulars of this film, known as Aparecidos pre-anglicisation, should perhaps be dealt with.

Pablo (Javier Pereira) and Malena (Ruth D?az) comprise a brother and sister duo who we are introduced to as they are about to pull the plug on their clinically brain-dead father's life support machine. Malena has little to no qualms about doing this, having seemingly not had the happiest of upbringings. Pablo is a little more reluctant, having barely known their father before their mother split from him, leaving the county with kids in tow. Pablo declares that before he gives consent to let his father clogpop he and his sister must bust their father's car out of storage and go on a road trip to find out a little more about Papa.

Sounds like a heartwarming little drama is in store, but this doesn't take into account a mysterious diary that Pablo finds in the car, full of grisly details and photographs of murders taken place some twenty years ago. Soon, as tends to be the way in this sort of thing, odd events start to unfold as the specters of the past reappear to put the willies right up our protagonists.

Said events have all the subtlety of a half brick hurled though a window, although that's hardly uncommon in the genre nor is it necessarily a bad thing. However, in a script that seems to have at least some pretension at being as much of an investigative thriller as the two attempt to make sense of the nonsense that happens to them it's a little more problematic. The other major problem, it must be pointed out, is that the portions that are attempting to be scary, well, aren't, leaving this something of a wash.

The Appeared image

It's certainly not the sort of film I'm happy being negative about. By this point in my life I'm both old enough and ugly enough to have suffered through some truly abysmal, irredeemable horror films (short selection - Creep, Cursed, Doomsday, Darkness Falls, Devil's Gate, Wrong Turn, I could go on at some length). This is certainly several leagues ahead of those barrel scrapings in terms of production, imagination and execution. The performances from Pereira & D?az are certainly never less than competent and evoke at least some measure of compassion for their plight. It's well enough captured by writer / director Paco Cabezas, allowing the likable leads to attempt to build horror through their reactions rather than falling back on the usual 'play a loud orchestral stab after a quiet bit' to provide thrills. All of which I'd like to encourage, in general terms, although he's not scripted this entirely faultlessly.

There are no end of conveniences taken in the plot, which would be substantially more irritating in a serious drama rather than in this, regardless of what the PR blurb might imply, silly ghost story. In particular any relationship to Argentina's Disappeared hinges almost entirely on one character Malena happens upon relating her story of this unfortunate time for no earthly reason whatsoever, before it returns to its silly ghost story as if nothing had happened. As background flavor it's an interesting seasoning, but as any attempt to lay a patina of credibility to its silly ghost story it ought to be roundly dismissed and ridiculed.

Again, let's not be too downbeat about this film-me-do, as after all it's not terrible and indeed is one of the more acceptably produced horror films I've seen of late. It's just that The Appeared is, well, not horrifying or in the final analysis interesting enough to warrant much attention at any time let alone in the middle of a film festival where, we feverently hope, there are much more worthy and interesting films vying for your entertainment dollarpound.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Paco Cabezas
Cast list:
Malena De Luca (Ruth D?az)
Pablo De Luca (Javier Pereira)
Dr. Lehrmann (H?ctor Bidonde)