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THE APPARITION

About The Production
"The more we believe, the stronger it seems to get."

What if you move into a new house to build your new life and find out you aren't the only beings within its walls? What if the more you believe the unbelievable, the more it becomes real...and frighteningly so? If the terror makes you flee, is there anywhere safe to hide? These are the questions at the center of writer/director Todd Lincoln's feature film directorial debut, "The Apparition."

Lincoln cites various documented experiments which piqued his interest as the genesis for the project, including one during the 1970s in which several parapsychologists created an apparition by harnessing the collective group's mental energy. "I felt the idea that it is possible to 'believe' a ghost into existence would be a fresh way to tell a ghost story," he says. "That was the seed and it continued to build and evolve from that."

Producer Joel Silver offers, "I'm always intrigued by haunted house films. As a kid they scared me, and I still love that feeling. I also like working with talented young filmmakers and Todd offered a great new take on this kind of story."

Producers Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman had become acquainted with Lincoln during their tenure at Rogue Pictures, where he had a project in development. "We had wanted to make a movie with Todd," producer Alex Heineman states.

In the story Lincoln conceived, he says, "The horror is set against a backdrop of America in transition, centered around a young couple in transition. We touch on the concept of the power of belief." Kelly and Ben are besieged by a mysterious and malicious force "thought" to life during a college lab experiment years earlier. But the entity has never really gone away.

Ashley Greene, who stars as Kelly, responded to the script immediately, admitting, "After reading it, I didn't want to sleep in the dark. The way fear can manifest into something otherworldly unnerved me to the core."

Starring opposite Greene, Sebastian Stan plays Kelly's live-in boyfriend, Ben. He agrees, "It's wild to think the secrets and fears each person carries around in their subconscious are powerful enough to literally transfer to their safest physical surrounding-their home."

Tom Felton, who portrays Ben's college friend, Patrick, a paranormal expert, was also drawn to the premise. "It's not a random cabin in the middle of the woods," Felton says. "It's based on something which people can relate to: an ordinary life, an ordinary day, an ordinary house."

Lincoln observes, "Sometimes the things that are the most normal can be the most terrifying."

"It wants to be in our world. It wants us."

When Kelly, a veterinary student making a living as a vet tech, and her boyfriend, Ben, a tech expert, move into her parent's suburban investment property in Palmdale, everything seems perfectly normal-except for the recurring noises, alarms mysteriously disarming themselves, and other strange occurrences. At first, the two find rationale for the odd events that transpire in their suburban abode; but the increasingly bizarre situations defy explanation, and soon make it clear that what they are dealing with is anything but normal.

Greene relates, "This type of thing scares me more than most because there's nothing you can do about it. There's nothing that you can really see. You can't tell the cops 'there's a ghost in my house.' It's very much that feeling of helplessness. I liked that Todd wanted to focus on that-not just what makes you jump, but also the why. He said, 'I want this to be very real, I want people to fear for these characters.'"

Lincoln says, "Ashley brought a likeable, relatable factor to Kelly that the audience could identify with and through which they could experience the supernatural events. It's always fun to take a sweet young character like that and really put her through the ringer and completely terrorize her. And Ashley was game for anything."

Greene describes Kelly as "a strong character, good-hearted but with an attitude and sass about her. She's happily building a life with Ben, but suddenly everything that she knows to be true changes, and the audience goes through that with her-love and betrayal, happiness and sadness. I think what attracted me to the character most is she's not the type of girl that tolerates being stepped on. There's a point in the film where that trait becomes very clear."

Unlike Kelly's focus and sense of purpose, Ben seems to still be trying to find himself. He is clearly over-qualified for his job at a local electronics store. But as more and more weird things happen at the house, events from his past, and the reason why he is currently stuck, come to light.

The producers, says Heineman, "were familiar with Sebastian Stan's work and we wanted to see how he and Ashley clicked."

Rona recalls, "The minute we put them in a room, they had great chemistry and we knew it was the way to go."

Lincoln adds, "Sebastian brought something I hadn't expected to the role-intensity, an edge, an unpredictability. He made intriguing choices. We'd walk through the sets together asking ourselves what we'd do if these events were happening to us. He's very thorough."

In his approach to his role, Stan observes, "Ben is a smart guy who was on a certain path and something went terribly wrong. Now, with Kelly, Ben feels like he has a second chance and is trying to bury the past. He is working to rebuild his life and tries to ignore his unpleasant past. But it won't be ignored. Ben has to step up and deal with that." When the past does resurface to torment Ben, it also draws his girlfriend into the center of the storm.

"Ben and Kelly go on this roller coaster ride, driven by this apparition," Stan says.

Ben turns to his former classmate Patrick, whose life has also taken a strange turn since college. Patrick is the one other person who knows the strength of the entity-and perhaps a way to fight it. Tom Felton says that the role of Patrick was an appealing challenge. "It's way out of my comfort zone. It was nothing like what I'd done before."

Lincoln notes, "I wanted to cast a younger, savvy guy with an edge as the scientific expert. Tom is an interesting actor and I'm excited for people to see him in this very different role."

Rounding out the cast are Rick Gomez and Anna Clark, who play the only neighbors in the empty housing development where Ben and Kelly reside, and Julianna Guill and Luke Pasqualino as students who participate in the college experiment that first unleashes the dark force.

"There's no way I'm staying in this house tonight."

While most of the action takes place in one house, "The Apparition" was filmed on two separate continents. It was shot on 35 mm in 2:35 aspect ratio with vintage anamorphic lenses. Nearly all of the interior sets were built at Babelsberg Studio in Berlin, Germany, and most of the exteriors were lensed in Southern California.

Lincoln and production designer Steve Saklad scouted key locales, finding a back yard in Santa Clarita to double for Ben and Kelly's back lawn, and the perfect house for front exteriors in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. The two-story house sits in an unfinished housing development, and the identical structures surrounding it are laid out in a winding grid as far as the eye can see, leading off to mountains in the distance and a buzzing maze of electrical transformers towering above.

Saklad describes the neighborhood as "the most quiet, normal, maybe boring neighborhood, and yet there's a complete sense of isolation with these eerie, vacant lots."

Lincoln conveys, "I didn't want the film to live in a constant terror bubble. I wanted to capture the America of today: suburban sprawl, big box stores and new housing developments. The quiet, idyllic setting brings a reversal of the notion of 'the old, dark house.' This house has no history. No one died in it. No one was killed in it. There is no burial ground or cemetery anywhere close to it."

For Silver, part of the appeal was that setting-the picture-perfect suburban enclave where nothing is supposed to go wrong. Silver says, "We are in a safe area, but what happens inside the house is far from safe. And what's really disturbing about this story is how uncivilized the haunting is, how it violates their home so thoroughly. It's creepy to witness, especially given how secluded they are in this neighborhood where most of the other houses are empty."

While still in L.A., Saklad's team had to design the house, make the model and put together lists of products that would require shipping from the states. That included all the appliances. "The kitchen turned out to be one of the biggest challenges, since European kitchens are about a third smaller than those in America," Saklad explains. "We also had to custom build all the cabinets."

The entire house was built on a stage at Babelsberg Studio, which, Silver says, "brings a lot to the table and is a great place to make films. We have a wonderful relationship with them, and that's why we've done so many films there."

The overall objective was to reinforce a feeling of shelter and comfort. Saklad states, "We added gracious curved arches to go from room to room, and there are elegant fireplaces, juxtaposed with furniture left over from their college days. You look at it and think, 'Oh this is so homey. Nothing bad is going to happen here.'"

Greene says the set was so realistic she truly felt at home. "The house had a full upstairs and downstairs. In between takes I could retreat upstairs and lie down in 'my' bed surrounded by 'our' photos. They did a beautiful job."

Lincoln notes, "The house is the primary location, but we go to some other interesting places in the film and open up the scope." Several smaller sets were also built at Babelsberg, including the lab for the opening scene of the university experiment that sets the scary chain reaction in motion.

"You started something you can't stop."

It all starts with Patrick and his college pals focusing on a large figurine in the lab in order to conjure an apparition.

Tom Felton recalls seeing ''ghost consultant" on the crew list and wondering, "What the hell is that?" The consultant was, in fact, real-life ghost hunter Joshua Warren, who was enlisted to lend his expertise. Felton reveals, "The research freaked me out to the point where when we came on set for the opening segment, I wanted to make sure all the machines were turned off during shooting our 'experiment.' I was convinced we were actually going to create something out of nothing. Joshua made it all so real."

In designing the set, Saklad consulted hundreds of images of Warren's laboratory, as well as reams of his scientific findings. He notes, "Although we did not duplicate his lab exactly, we followed the spirit of it, trying to be accurate with what science he would have been using. The Berlin art department was amazing at recreating the world of gadgetry needed to amass our own version of the scientific experiments documented by Warren." Among the gadgets were several thermal cameras, including a fake one which was lightweight and rigged with lights to illuminate the actors' faces in the pitch dark.

Also true to science is the Faraday cage-a metallic enclosure that prevents entry or escape of an electromagnetic field-which was constructed on the set of Patrick's home, a '60s-style ranch house found in Calabasas, California. Saklad's inspiration came from a 1950s battery, which has coils of copper wire wrapped around a square format. "We took copper wire and ran it in all three dimensions, laterally, vertically, and horizontally, creating removable central panels on each side of the cage so we could actually put the camera through that opening, whichever way we wanted, and still see the rest of the cage intact. The floor is glass, with coils of copper running underneath. The idea of these Faraday cages is that as long as you're inside the cage, 100,000 volts of energy won't hurt you."

Although college is in the past, what was unleashed in the lab is still very much in the present and, years later, Ben and Kelly must deal with the terrifying spectre that continuously changes its appearance.

"If there is a ghost in this movie," Lincoln says, "it's not a ghost in the traditional sense. It's not the ghost of anything that was ever living. This is a dark, malevolent, unknown, inhuman entity that gains its power from belief and fear. In the paranormal field, it's the rarest and most terrifying of all: a full body apparition."

Adding to the eerie atmosphere was the music created by Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn, better known as tomandandy. Tom Hajdu remarks, "We found both a challenge and opportunity for the music-to create a score that reflected the voice of the apparition, while at the same time functioning as score to internally and externally support the narrative of the film." Andy Milburn adds, "We landed on a modern sound that was able to operate in these multiple ways, inspired by the early noise ensembles and more recent industrial groups." To achieve this, they processed and distorted Hajdu's voice.

To help bring the apparition to life, the filmmakers turned to Mike Elizalde, owner of Spectral Motion. Elizalde recalls, "Todd described a force that was supernatural in origin yet organic in nature, a physical presence that doesn't necessarily abide by the laws of physics so it behaves like nothing we know."

Giving the entity its most distinct form, Elizalde's team constructed the creature suit worn by actor Marti Martulis. Spectral Motion's practical effects were then enhanced using computer graphics to develop metaphysical aspects for the menace, such as disturbances in the environment.

Saklad also implemented what he calls "footprints of the apparition" in the set design. "The notion that it can transform a space in the blink of an eye starts with something as subtle as a stain on the countertop that somebody didn't sponge off," he continues. "That becomes mold, and as the apparition's physical signature changes, it grows more and more violent from there. We found a lot of ways to up the ante on the bad things that can happen inside a typical house."

As the ante is raised, during the course of its terror the dark power remains elusive...and the mere thought of it is all the more terrifying.

Lincoln offers, "It was always a question of how many times we would show the apparition and how much of it we would show. I prefer to leave more to the audiences' imagination."

"I couldn't agree more with the premise that what you conjure in your mind is far worse than anything you ever actually see," Heineman says. "It allows the audience to let their thoughts run wild."

Stan adds, "I hope everyone gets caught up in the great psychological game that's being played on these characters. It really leaves you guessing."

"There are a lot of mind tricks in this film; it digs deep into the roots of what scares us and affects us and hurts us," Greene confirms.

Lincoln concludes, "There have been haunted house stories as long as there have been houses. In 'The Apparition,' why they are haunted, how they are haunted and what's haunting them is different. We think the audience will have fun with that."

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