Apartment 1303 Review
Written by: jay_wigger
As a genre, J-Horror seems to have hit a wall, what with just about every film released involving some variation of the vengeful ghost girl with long and supernaturally powerful hair haunting and killing a bunch of youngsters until at least one of them gets the point and decides to get to the bottom of the whole situation. Do we really need to see more of this? With Apartment 1303, the answer is a resounding NO!
And that's a shame, considering the pedigree of the creative team behind Apartment 1303. Japanese novelist Kei Oishi, author of The Grudge, teams up with writer-director Ataru Oikawa (the critically-acclaimed Tomie trilogy) to adapt his own novel for the screen. So far, so good, right? Well, something seems to have happened in the transition from the page to the screen that turned Apartment 1303 into just the latest in a long line of poor, if well-executed, knockoffs. When Sayaka jumps to her death from the balcony of her new apartment (can you guess the address?) in front of her friends at her own housewarming party, her sister Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi, Strawberry Shortcakes) dicovers that she wasn't the first and decides to try and uncover the dark history of the apartment with the help of a friendly detective (Ataru Furuta, Tokyo Zombie). Soon enough, Mariko comes face to face with the evil entity inside the apartment and must fight her way out of it.
It's an interesting enough story, and probably makes for a compelling read in its novelized format, but the film comes off as completely derivative of all the ghost-girl movies that came before it. For his part, director Oikawa does what he can with a cast of relative unknowns and a (presumably) small budget, but the familiarity of the elements in this type of film make for a totally bland and scare-free movie.
It's saying something when a Japanese horror film like Apartment 1303 goes direct-to-video in its own country. The effects are poor to middling, the soundtrack is mediocre, and the frights are few and far between. Considering that horror films out of Thailand (Shutter) and Korea (Arang) are taking the ghost girl theme and improving upon it, it's sad to see the originator of the genre stuck in a rut like this. It's time to move on and come up with something a little more refreshing, like the great Korean take on the slasher flick, Bloody Reunion. The occasional celluloid visit from our friend ghost girl could be a welcome treat, but when it's all you can come up with and there's no new twist to it, the well has run dry.
The good folks over at Tartan Video have once again delivered a technically superior disc in their Asia Extreme line, including a nice anamorphic widescreen presentation and a superb Dolby DTS 5.1 audio surround option, but the complete lack of special features (unless you count a theatrical trailer and a photo gallery as special features) makes it seem like Apartment 1303 was just a throwaway filler release, grist for the mill.
When even the DVD box cover is a rip-off of The Grudge, you know you're not getting anything original from Apartment 1303. If you can't get enough of long-haired-ghost-girl-with-a-chip-on-her-shoulder, then this film is for you. Otherwise, steer clear of it, or catch it on the Sundance Channel on one of their Asia Extreme nights. Just don't expect to be scared by it unless you haven't seen any of its numerous predecessors.
Originally reviewed by me at ioncinema.com, Nov. 6, 2007