Metascore
51

Mixed or average reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 21
  2. Negative: 3 out of 21
  1. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    80
    Not all the plot developments ring true, but moments carry a real chill - even in a coma, McKellen can terrify a fellow patient almost to death - and it has more than enough thought-provoking material to command your interest.
  2. This brutal film borders on the brilliant. Beautifully structured and edited, with a chilling central performance by Ian McKellen and an exceptional score by John Ottman, who also edited the picture, it churns up emotions and leaves the viewer feeling stunned and depleted.
  3. Brought off with such skill and commitment that there isn't any time to snicker at its obviousness.
  4. It's scariest as a parable about the evil that exists in the hearts of adolescent boys.
  5. Both actors play their roles so trickily that tensions escalate until the horror grows unimaginatively gothic.
  6. 70
    Largely free of generic horror-movie elements, such as exploitative torture and murder scenes. Those it does contain draw attention to the difference between the conventions of psychological drama and those of pulp horror.
  7. 67
    It's not perfect King, but it is jarringly close, which these days remains pretty much all one could hope for.
  8. 60
    Do director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Brandon Boyce really mean to suggest that the roots of genocide lie in homosexual desire?
  9. Reviewed by: Jack Mathews
    60
    Despite the riveting performances of Renfro and McKellen, we're left with classic horror-movie sociopaths, evil-doers without conscience, or much to say about the nature of evil.
  10. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    60
    A creepy, well-acted story of contagious evil, Apt Pupil has more than enough chilling dramatic scenes to rivet the attention but suffers from some hokey contrivances and underlying insufficiencies of motivation.
  11. 50
    When bodies are buried in cellars and cats are thrown into lighted ovens, the film reveals itself as unworthy of its subject matter.
  12. This sensationalistic tale doesn't delve very far into the issues it raises.
  13. 50
    Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Apt Pupil is the lack of sustained tension generated by director Bryan Singer.
  14. No matter how you judge it -- as a strict morality play or simply a psychological thriller -- Apt Pupil just doesn't make the grade.
  15. 50
    A creepy, if disjointed exploration of the nature of evil. But compared to its predecessor, it's also a bit of a disappointment.
  16. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    50
    In the end, artifice overwhelms art. Apt Pupil is too serious to work as a genre movie, and too contrived to be taken seriously. [12 October 1998]
  17. Scares, to be sure, which is certainly one promise on which it delivers. But the film offers little insight into what it seems to be saying is essentially a mundane fact of life: When one devil leaves the world, there is always another one waiting just outside the door.
  18. Ultimately the movie disintegrates due to its own clumsiness. It's far too coincidence-driven to be believable.
  19. 30
    Heartless piece of ill will.
  20. 30
    McKellen is fine, of course, but the film as a whole offers about as much insight into evil as Ming The Merciless in a “Flash Gordon” serial.
  21. 30
    Overwrought and unpleasant nonsense.
User Score
6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 11 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 2
  2. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. MargretH.
    May 23, 2007
    5
    Worst novella turned book ever.
  2. RDalvi
    Mar 17, 2007
    8
    Under-appreciated gem by Singer. McKellen is very nice and Renfro is surprisingly good. Very taut and brilliantly done thriller.