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Apartment 1303 (2007)
27th Oct 07
People move into an apartment in an apartment block in Japan and guess what? It's haunted!
We all know that modern day living can be expensive, prices just seem to keep going up and up, beer, fags and more than anything else accommodation, can all be killers on the old bank balance. Choosing a place to live can be one of the biggest decisions we make in our lives and we have to think through these decisions thoroughly, so when a bargain comes out of the blue, you’d be a fool to pass an opportunity by, surely? Especially if it turns out to be a really cute, contemporarily decorated, ultra cheap studio flat, with great views and a swimming pool. Hey what the hell if it’s on the thirteenth floor, eh? It ain’t as if it’s number 13, is it? No, it’s Apartment 1303 so it’s bound to be alright, isn’t it? Well…. actually no, Apartment 1303 turns out to be a J-Horror flick, from Ataru Oikawa (writer director of Tomie and Tomie: Revenge) and bestselling Japanese novelist, Keo Oishi (The Last Supper), but does it build upon the foundations laid down by other horrors from the East such as The Ring and The Grudge?
What I have learnt from this film though, are the three basic questions to ask oneself when looking at a place to live, and something, I think, we can all learn from:
Does it small a bit iffy?
The film starts off with a new resident of apartment 1303 unpacking in her new abode. Her partner is out at a funeral, so she’s alone, then we hear the dreaded mysterious ‘thump’ noise. Does she carry on unpacking? Or go to investigate??? Well before you can say eviction notice, off she goes to the bedroom to check it out… something’s not right, there some sort of smell the landlord didn’t mention… hmm… that’s not good. The scene then cuts to downstairs, where a mother and daughter are walking out of the block. The new resident’s partner is returning to the apartment after a bit of a drag of a day, he is suddenly grabbed by the little girl and dragged to the pool, just in time to see his beloved avoid the conventional lift method of leaving an apartment and opt for the direct rout ala head first from the balcony. The fall is shot brilliantly with good special effects, and as a self confessed acrophobic I found the fall shocking (although I have to admit, it’s not the falling I’m scared of, it’s the landing).
Is the building pet friendly?
We now cut to where the story really begins. Sayaka, is moving in to 1303, she’s having an unpacking party with her friends and celebrating moving in into the first apartment of her own, she makes three deadly mistakes, first off she has a moving in schedule (who in their right mind has one of those?!), secondly she tells a ghost story as a joke to justify her cheap rent to her friends (again asking for it!) and thirdly she pays little attention to her dog Samantha, who doesn’t seem best pleased with her new home (such folly). Syaka finds herself drawn to a closet in the bedroom, returning moments later to the living room, to don her scooter helmet (well she does write moving schedules) and take the gravity based quick descent via the balcony… Her sister and main character Mariko (played by Noriko Nakagoshi), is introduced to us as a chain smoking strong woman who is adamant her sister didn’t commit suicide and is determined to find out what really killed her sister.
Can there be included in the price of the house, a Police Man feature that encourages you to research the home’s history?
Yes, the film then starts to lurch into hackneyed plot devices to propel the story along, with a dull mother/daughter relationship dragging the pace of the film agonisingly and somewhat needlessly. Having said that the, gradual tension, twists in the story do work well, it just seems a pity that some of the unnecessary story couldn’t have been left in the editing room. The use of CGI is minimal throughout, the tension bought on by the ghosts and the mysterious neighbours (possibly from hell, but more likely Kidbrooke and in need of a social services visit), works well and does add to that almighty crescendo at the finale.
I can’t help but feel that this film misses opportunities and gets bogged downed in sentimental detail when, compared with other J-Horror films (which it certainly does rehash ideas already used previously most notably The Grudge), it seems like a slightly less well off relative. Not to say it’s a bad film, as an introduction to J-Horror, it’s fine, if you’re a big fan of J-Horror, then you might find it a little disappointing. Apartment 1303 is a decent ghost story with occasional shocks, good tension, reasonable acting, but falls apart on family values. And something about earrings.
So would I buy it? Or is it a short term lease? I’d probably say in real estate terms, part ownership.