APARTMENT 1303 (2007)

Country : Japan

Year: 2007

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 94'

Director: Ataru Oikawa

Cast: Noriko Nakagoshi, Eriko Hatsune, Yuka Itaya, Naoko Otani, Arata Furuta


*(*) 2-

Story: Moving into her first apartment, Sayaka invites her friends to come over to celebrate. During the party, she begins to behave strangely, discovering a newfound taste for dog food and the like. Suddenly she runs to the balcony and plunges to her death – from the 13th floor of a modern, very unscary apartment building. At her funeral her friends refuse to believe this was a suicide. Her mother muses: "Why did it have to be HER?" Such comments are not pleasing to her sister, Mariko. So, she starts snooping around, and discovers that any single girl who rented the apartment 1303 ended up jumping from the balcony. As always, there's a wronged, abused victim turned into an evil she-bitch ghost, and the two must clash their fists in the end. Expect a cliffhanger (i.e. balcony-hanger)...

Review: Words fail me to describe this tired retread into J-horror territory which, for some reason, comes under the label 'Asia extreme'. The only thing extreme about this affair is the boredom you'll feel if you're careless enough to buy or rent it. The old saying goes: one shouldn't judge the DVD by its cover, but in this case I think you should. The markedly unoriginal DVD case tries to ape the original RING with a huge, staring eye with red iris whose black pupil is shaped like a keyhole. A flow of long black hair on the side goes without saying.

The distributors are trying sell this second-rate material as something worthwhile, so they claim on the same cover: "From the author of GRUDGE." Kei Oishi wrote the novel on which THE GRUDGE was based, but his writing job on 1303 is nothing to bre proud of. The script goes through the motions of all the predictable ingredients of J-horror you'd expect, never infusing them with any real emotion, idea or inventive scare.

We have familial abuse. More specifically, a mother who abuses her daughter. I wonder, what's the deal with those Japanese: in the whole civilized world it is predominantly fathers who are abusive to their families, but not so in Japanese horrors. According to them, mothers are to be blamed. It is always big bad mammas responsible. By this I do not mean only the neglecting mothers who leave their kids alone for too long, thus causing disaster (as in RINGU, DARK WATER, etc.), but also those from ONE MISSED CALL and every other sad clone of those, including the Korean ones (THE GHOST, BLOODY REUNION, etc.). It's always mothers! The formula remains the same: father is absent (either dead, left the family, or just inexplicably NOT THERE), mother is left alone with her child and... shit happens! Someone should write a thesis on 'Absent fathers and questionable mothers in Japanese horror cinema'. It would probably be boring, but not as much as APARTMENT 1303.

We have suicide. Another leitmotif of J-horror. Just like rape, it's in every other Japanese movie. A lot of angst floating there, I guess, looking for a vent. Not finding one outside, it turns upon itself. OK, in this case, suicides are supernaturally motivated (aren't they all?), but since the origin of everything is in the mother who abused her daughter... some disturbing shit is in between the lines. Sadly, nothing much is done with that. The opening has some attempts at drama and dealing with the loss of a loved one, but it is quickly forgotten: the plot requires our heroine to become a detective, since only by finding the truth about the ghost one can exorcise it. Or something like that. Noriko Nakagoshi is doing a very decent acting job, but seems wasted in this material. The middle section is mind-numbingly predictable (a rare wake-up call provided by a newspaper title which screams: MUMMIFIED MUMMY!) and the end is as silly as they come. It provides a first: the scene in which a character reasons with a ghost and convinces her how and why she should stop her spectral shenanigans! And it seems to work – until the stupid twist ending which throws everything down the drain wherefrom it shouldn't have crawled in the first place.

Do we have scares? Gotta be kidding me. Loud ominous noises. Bombastic score (the opening is reminiscent of Bernard Hermann – but that's all; this ain't no Hitchcock). Spooky calls from cell phones. (Why the hell are Japanese so scared of kitschy pink cell phones? No, don't write an essay on 'Internet, cyberspace, cell phones and other techno-gadgets in modern Japanese horror film'!) Creepy little girls. (There must be an essay on 'Fear of the children in modern Japanese horror film: guilty consciousness and return of the repressed.') Close ups of faces frozen in a scream. (How about 'The influence of Edward Munch's 'The Scream' on Japanese horror film'?) Hairy horrors. (In this case hair becomes more similar to tentacles, which provides a couple of moderately fine images, though much cheaper and less elaborate than those in EXTE.) Dreams within dreams within dreams. ("Phew, it was all a dream. No, wait, this is a dream too!.." etc.) Should I even go on? I don't think there's a cliche they DIDN'T use here.

All in all, APARTMENT 1303 is not only unoriginal, it does not even TRY to be original. A mechanical, routine, unambitious cash-in on the J-horror trend, it will mildly entertain only the most undemanding. Consider yourself warned, and enter this apartment at your own risk. No, nothing scary will happen there. You'll fall asleep before the mid-section's playing detective and digging through the newspapers and books bores you silly.

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