November 18, 2019
The Appearance (2019)
Grade: 66/100

Director: Kurt Knight
Stars: Jake Stormoen, Kristian Nairn, Baylee Self

What it's about. Set in an abbey in Medieval Europe. A monk has been murdered, or has committed suicide, and blame is cast upon Isabel (Baylee Self), a strange young woman. She is jailed, chained, and interrogated by the remaining monks. They believe, as does the neighboring village, that she is a witch, and wish to see her put to death. The aged abbot (Michael Flynn, no relation to the briefly tenured Trump cabinet member) is especially emphatic about this.

But one of the monks, Felix (Adam Johnson), does not believe that the abbey has the authority to execute without the blessing of an inquistor, an outside Catholic church investigator. Soon, the film's heroic lead, Matheho (Jake Stormoen) shows up, with hulking assistant Johnny (Kristian Nairn) in tow. Earnest young Matheho is an inquisitor, and promptly decides that Isabel is unfairly blamed for the local evil. This puts the inquisitor and abbot at odds.

Meanwhile, the monks are getting killed off, or committing suicide, one by one. Eventually, it becomes clear that the girl is not a witch, but a demon in the form of a girl, whose spirit will not rest until it has achieved vengeance.

How others will see it. The Appearance created little stir since it debuted at the 2018 Cinepocalypse Film Festival. Apparently, it was filmed in Utah, since it won a few awards at the Utah Film Festival and the FilmQuest Film Festival, both in Provo, Utah.

At, The Appearance is disliked. It has a low 876 user votes and a low user rating of 4.6 out of 10, which varies little among demographics. But the user ratings are higher than they are for Kurt Knight's only other feature as writer/director, We All Fall Down (2016), which has a spectacularly low user rating of 2.7 out of 10.

User reviews for The Appearance are few, but they typically make unflattering comparisons with The Name of the Rose (1986), a popular movie starring Sean Connery, F. Murry Abraham, and a very young Christian Slater. Certainly, The Appearance does not have the budget or the cast of that film, but if money can't buy you love, it is also insufficient, by itself, to make a movie any good.

Most viewers believe the movie is too slow, even boring. The one casting that gets notice is that of man-mountain Kristian Nairn as Matheho's sidekick Johnny. Many of the leading roles are taken from the cast of the CW network television series "The Outpost", for which Kurt Knight has also served as a writer and director.

How I felt about it. It is clear from the cast, sets, and absence of special effects that this is a relatively low budget film. But low budget films can be good, and in the horror genre, such as The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and The Evil Dead (1981). Of course, such films can be bad as well, e.g. The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007).

A film can't be condemned because it is fairly low budget. It can be condemned if its characters or situations are not credible. Because it is a movie, we can accept that demons exist, can resemble young women, and can bear violent grudges against those who have greviously wronged them.

But that is not the complaint that most viewers have against the film. Instead, they say it is too slow, or more specifically, takes too long to get going. This, despite a series of character deaths that accelerates towards the end. The director intends suspense. The viewer wants to see inflicted horrorshows, as in The Thing (1982). That is, the viewer is expecting a horror movie, and gets a drama set in an Medieval abbey.

But I will take one or the other. I am interested not in what it is, but in how good it is. A malicious abbot, paranoid monks, enraged villagers, a girl in peril, and an outside investigator who doesn't really believe in witches can all be the ingredients in a worthwhile stew, which is indeed what we have here.