The Apparition and The Possession: two horror movies with similar titles, releasing one weekend apart. It's enough to confuse even the most unflappable moviegoer. But while the dueling PG-13 ghost stories might seem relatively identical to the untrained eye, further inspection reveals some key differences. As a public service, I've compiled a helpful guide to telling the two late-August horror movies apart.

The Apparition stars Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan as Kelly and Ben, a young couple haunted by a ghost that was conjured during a college parapsychology experiment. Because they're stock horror characters, they don't seem overly concerned with saving themselves.

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The Possession stars Natasha Calis as Em, a young girl possessed by an ancient demon that was trapped inside a box she bought at a yard sale. Because he is a relatable human being, her father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) attempts to save his daughter.

The Apparition could be seen as a cautionary tale against "experimenting" in college.

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The Possession could be seen as a cautionary tale against attending yard sales.

In both movies, the main characters live in a brand-new and almost entirely deserted housing development. It's unlikely either is meant as a commentary on the current state of the real estate market.

The Apparition is rated PG-13 for scenes of creepy hands on the outside of someone's body, unnatural acting, a few bloodless deaths, and gratuitous shots of Ashley Greene in lingerie.

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The Possession is rated PG-13 for scenes of creepy hands on the inside of someone's body, unnatural full-body contorting, bloody maiming, and gratuitous shots of Jeffrey Dean Morgan in shorts.

The Apparition is best described as "Paranormal Activity with less action."

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The Possession is best described as "The Exorcist with more Judaism."

The Possession claims to be based on a true story.

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The Apparition claims to be a movie.

The Apparition's tagline is "Once you believe, you die." This does not appear to be the case in the actual movie.

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The Possession's tagline is "Fear the demon that doesn't fear God." This does.

In The Possession, the demon feeds on kids' souls and wants to take the life of a precocious little girl. This makes it clearly evil.

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In The Apparition, the ghost feeds on fear, and wants to take the lives of an annoying young couple. This makes it surprisingly sympathetic.

The Apparition's ancient evil's MO is to wear you down until you're too tired to fight back. This is probably also a good metaphor for the movie.

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The Possession's ancient evil's MO is to distance you from your loved ones until it gets you alone. This is probably not a good metaphor for the movie.

In The Apparition, the ghost rearranges Kelly and Ben's furniture.

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In The Possession, the demon rearranges Em's face.

In The Possession, moths fly out of Em's mouth. This is understandably hard to watch.

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In The Apparition, terrible dialogue flies out of Kelly and Ben's mouths. This is also understandably hard to watch.

In The Apparition, a little girl accuses a house of killing her dog. This is sort of true, yet still kind of funny.

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In The Possession, a little girl accuses a father of hitting her. This is not true, and not funny.

In The Apparition, said apparition is at first mistaken for neighborhood kids screwing around, and shoddy home construction. This is used to explain locked doors opening by themselves, security cameras being smashed, and a closet full of clothes being twisted into some kind of modern art piece.

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In The Possession, said possession is at first mistaken for depression, and leftover trauma from a parents' divorce. This is used to explain out-of-character violence, an insatiable appetite, and an unhealthy obsession with a creepy old box.

In The Apparition, the ghost is finally taken seriously when it shows up on a handheld thermal scanner. When we see it, it looks like an older version of the girl from The Ring.

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In The Possession, the demon is finally taken seriously when it shows up in an MRI. When we see it, it looks like Gollum with less expressive eyes.

In The Possession, crucial exposition is filled in by a snarky community college professor and a group of Hasidic rabbis.

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In The Apparition, crucial exposition is filled in by emails sent in all caps and a recording that has conveniently been left playing in an empty house for days, and is helpfully cued to just the right spot when our protagonists arrive.

In The Apparition, they turn to Tom Felton, a.k.a. Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, for help. Together, they attempt to capture the ghost with "amplified brainwaves" and tapes of the conjuring played in reverse.

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In The Possession, they turn to Matisyahu, a.k.a. the Hasidic recording artist, for help. Together, they attempt to capture the demon with a father's love and chanting in Hebrew.

The Apparition runs 82 minutes, with credits. This still feels way too long.

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The Possession runs 92 minutes, with credits. This feels about right.

categories Movies