Sunday, April 13, 2014

Triskaidekaphilia: 'Apartment 1303' (2007)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

One thing I've learned from this project is to avoid all apartment numbers with 13 in them. After the horrors of India's 13B, we move to Japan for Apartment 1303, a fairly familiar horror exercise with your basic stringy-haired female ghost. It's actually more of a traditional haunted-house movie than a J-horror tech nightmare, with an extensive back story about abuse and murder taking place in the titular apartment. The beginning of the movie quickly shows two different young women jumping to their deaths right after moving into the apartment. It turns out that a number of young women have done the same thing, and yet the rental company doesn't seem to have any problems finding new people to rent the apartment (apparently only young women are interested in living there).

Main character Mariko is the sister of the most recent victim, who decides to unravel the mystery with the help of a rumpled police detective. Star Noriko Nakagoshi brings some emotional weight to the role, which helps ground the mostly silly story, but the supporting performances are more cartoonish, and the cheesy special effects don't help. As Mariko learns more about the haunting of the apartment, the movie takes a lengthy detour to recount the back story, which involves an abusive mother who's killed by her own daughter. Eventually Mariko faces down the ghost of the daughter, but the climax is neither scary (thanks mostly to the aforementioned cheapo effects) nor emotionally involving (since Mariko has no real connection to the ghosts).

Mostly Apartment 1303 is a rote collection of haunted-house and J-horror tropes, held together by one decent performance and a whole lot of bad ones. The movie ends with what is probably meant as a chilling final moment, but it comes off as more of a shrug, thanks again to the cheesy effects, but also to the complete lack of engagement in the characters. Some girls jump off a balcony, and then some other people do, also. Nobody cares.

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