Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This is foreign movie weekend for me as I visit 8 countries in 3 days. My body may be trapped in the frigid, gloomy, depressing Midwest but my mind can go any damn where it pleases because I own a DVD player. Today we're in Japan, and though the Japanese film industry is quite diverse and makes as many different kinds of films that we make over here in The States, recently the butter has been on the side of the bread that says freaky horror movies. Sure enough, as we make our visit to the Land of the Rising sun, we are making it a point NOT to stay in ‘Apartment 1303’ during our brief visit.

Sayaka (Eriko Hatsune) is a big girl now and has made that bold move out of the house of her mother and older sister to start a life on her own. A group of her friends help her move in and these crazy kids start playing around and having crazy fun the way crazy kids do. One thing that seems strange to all these young adults is that how in the world can such a nice spacious apartment in such a nice building and a wonderful part of town be so damn cheap? Can you say SATAN? If Sayaka had been watching the movie from the first scene, like we were, she would have seen another similar young woman ask that same question before flying out of the 13th floor apartment to her death. So the kids are having a good time and Sayaka heads towards one of the rooms with a real funny smell and exits the room acting Kar –A –Zay! Girlfriend starts eating her dogs puppy chow, babbling like a psycho, grabs a motorcycle helmet and then launches herself out this window to her death.

At Sayaka’s funeral, which was ruled a suicide, one of her friends at the party informs her older sister Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi) that this was no suicide. Mariko decides to go to the scene of the crime and do a little checking out on her own, partly because she

wants to get the bottom of her sister’s death and partly because she needs to get away for her mother who is in a constant state of grief and intimates that the wrong sister died that day. No sooner than Mariko gets into the apartment do the strange things start happening again, like her sisters cell phone ringing, a freaky little kid – a staple in these movies – hanging around being freaky looking, and her dead sister showing up in places delivering cryptic spooky messages. Soon Mariko meets a detective (Arata Furata) who informs Mariko about the sordid history of this room and that any young girl who moves in almost immediately flings themselves out of a window to their death. This isn’t like some kind of big secret either as there are books and television shows about this particular apartment as well so one would think that if one had just the slightest bit of media savvy, one would have no problems avoiding apartment 1303. The massive media coverage of 1303 has given Mariko all the background information she needed to find out what happened in that apartment and why, and she thinks that she is the one who can finally break the curse. Good luck with that Mariko and I’ll see you downstairs by the pool. I’ll take the elevator, but I think you’ll be taking the express route.

So there’s nothing really special about director Atura Oikawa’s film that sets it apart from the slate of Asian horror movies that are streaming out of the Pacific Rim. ‘Apartment 1303’ is not a particularly bad film as it is shot well, acted reasonably well and is methodically paced as these films tend to be, but perhaps because we’ve seen so many of these types of movies out of Asia, and not to mention the numerous American ripoffs…. errr… remakes, one would hope for more when yet another one of these things comes along, and ‘Apartment 1303’ just doesn’t give us more. It has a couple of spooky, eerie moments but nothing really scary or frightening and it also lacks that underlying sense of foreboding that we’ve seen in films such as ‘Ringu’ or ‘Ju-on’.

Some of what follows can be considered SPOILERS so please don’t read further if you want to watch this film. One wonders why these clowns keep renting out this apartment and having people die in it because at least in the film ‘1408’ Samuel L’s freaky character did have the common decency to close the room off. Why was the freaky girl who was our ghostly murderer following Mariko around Tokyo? She’s not in the apartment, she’s nowhere near the apartment, and she’s not trying to move into the apartment so you would think a girl could brush her teeth without being harassed by ghosts. And why not just rent out Apartment 1302? I mean we know now that there are dead ghosts living there and that they probably aren’t paying rent, but 1302 NEVER ends up getting rented out. And how uncool was it for those dudes who rented 1303 for the summer to just run out of the room when the freaky stuff started happening and leave that trio of hotties there alone to get tossed out of the window. Not good lookin’.

‘Apartment 1303’ is a decidedly mediocre Asian horror movie that really didn’t make a whole lot of sense and didn’t provide too many chills. Watch only if you have a goal to watch every single Asian horror movie made, otherwise just pull out a copy of ‘Audition’ from your collection and watch that instead for a truly horrible experience from the mind of one truly sick dude.

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