THE APPEARANCE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: KURT KNIGHT / STARRING: JAKE STORMOEN, KRISTIAN NAIRN, ADAM JOHNSON / RELEASE DATE: TBC
There have been some comparisons, but Kurt Knight’s The Appearance plays out like a supernatural interpretation of The Name of the Rose (1996). The latter is a strikingly bleak murder mystery set within the walls of an isolated abbey during paranoid times, a dark comment on religious fervour with suitably wrought performances from Sean Connery, Ron Perlman, and F. Murray Abraham among others; the former, well, it’s set within an abbey.
You see, there are good things at the heart of The Appearance - although the title does it no favours at all - but these are overwhelmed by the inherent boredom Knight instils into his film, as if surviving to the final scenes is a religious test for both the cast and the audience.
Summoned to the fateful abbey, Mateho the Inquisitor (Stormoen) immediately decides that the woman imprisoned by the monks is no more a witch than the Abbot himself, could not possibly be responsible for all this fuss and sets about proving that something more ‘Earthly’ is to be blame for the mounting deaths. Except that Mateho himself is suffering visions brought on by a suppressed memory and - and this is no spoiler - given that he grew up behind the grim walls in which he once again finds himself, should perhaps be a little more on the ball than he appears to be. That nobody recognises or remembers him from his time there is also strange, but not nearly as much as the truth once all is revealed.
Good things are present. There are several convincing performances, although loveable giant Johnny seems entirely unnecessary, something Kristian Nairn who plays him seems to be in agreement with. The initially oppressive atmosphere is mildly unsettling, and the always intriguing subject matter is lost amidst aimless wanderings down dark corridors and a narrative repetition that leaves you as resigned to your tedious fate as the monks themselves. And the final act is an experiment in throwing as much plot at the screen as possible when following one clear explanation would have served much better.
No, there was a decent film here, a steady idea that could and should have worked but the end result is a clichéd example of why less-is-more, when stretching your basic story out through laboriously dull scenes - both in lighting and nature - add little of the tension being strived for and simply turn the audience off.