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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
CONTINUES...

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Apartment 1303

Apartment 1303
2007 - Tartan

So far this month, we've looked at zombies, vampires, monsters, and psychos galore. We've talked about giallo, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, big studio horrors and low-to-no-budget indies. But we haven't talked about Asian horror. Specifically, Japanese horror, the style that exploded onto the scene with movies like Ringu and Ju-On, was all the rage for awhile with Americanized remakes like The Ring and The Grudge, then quickly fell out of fashion and went back to being a cult item.

The criticism most often leveled at J-horror is that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. This complaint is not entirely unfounded. The Japanese do love their ghosts and their curses, whether it's a haunted videotape, a haunted cell phone or a haunted e-mail. Apartment 1303 features something a bit more mundane: a haunted condo. The title address has seen five suicides in three years, all young girls moving into their first apartment.


After Sayaka becomes the latest girl to take a header off the balcony, her older sister Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi) does some sleuthing. She learns that three years earlier, a young woman murdered her abusive alcoholic mother in the apartment and kept her corpse in the closet for six months before taking a 13-story swan dive onto the concrete.

The cover of Apartment 1303 claims to be "from the author of The Grudge". I assume this refers to Kei Oishi, whose novel this movie is based on, although my research failed to turn up what connection if any he has with The Grudge. Regardless, Apartment 1303 is very similar to that film. Indeed, it's very similar to most any ghost story you've ever seen before. There's actually dialogue in the early scenes along the lines of, "What a great apartment! And such a bargain! I wonder why?" Oh, brother. For at least the first half, Apartment 1303 might just as well be titled Generic Japanese Horror Movie. There are plenty of shots of characters slooooooowly turning around to catch a glimpse of the ghost behind them. The movie is directed by Ataru Oikawa, who helmed several installments of the popular Tomie series, including the original. Oikawa has a good eye and does his best to keep things interesting. The film does come to life in the final act with several interesting and spooky scenes but by then, it's too little, too late. Oh, and you'd best believe that our ghost is slump-shouldered with long black hair hanging over her face. At least here, the hair is put to good use.

Tartan has released Apartment 1303 as part of their Asia Extreme line and it's typical of the studio's efforts. Video quality is quite good. Audio quality is very good, with both Dolby and DTS 5.1 options. Extras are slim on this disc, limited to a photo gallery and trailers for this and other J-Horror titles from the studio.

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of Japanese horror on the planet. I was lucky enough to climb on board the bandwagon early on and catch Ringu years before Naomi Watts shoved that tape into her VCR. Even then, I wasn't all that impressed. To me, most of the Japanese horror movies I've seen consist of a handful of cool, sometimes very cool, scenes, connected by interminable stretches of boredom. Apartment 1303 is no exception. Unfortunately in this case, all the best stuff is stacked toward the end of the picture. So if you've bailed on it before it shows up, I don't blame you in the least.

Film Rating: C
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/D


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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