Friday, December 15, 2006


HAUNTED APARTMENTS (Japanese horror)
Cast: Mei Kurokawa, Mitsuru Fukikoshi and Ryoko Takizawa
Director: Akio Yoshida
Time: 98 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Mitsuru Fukikoshi and Mei Kurokawa
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? One thing we can be thankful for is that this J-horror effort does not try to scare us with the ‘mandatory’ long-haired, pale-faced girl. Instead, it uses split-second glimpses of a girl in school uniform to suggest that something is wrong with the titular apartments.
So how does director Akio Yoshida scare us? Answer: With a silly little curfew story!

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Teenager Aimi (Mei Kurokawa) moves into an old apartment building with her father (Mitsuru Fukikoshi). Her mother has died in an accident two years ago, and her journalist father has taken to drinking to drown his sorrows. The move is meant to help them start life afresh but even before they can unpack their stuff, they are told that that they have become virtual prisoners at the building.
It turns out that the apartment block is haunted, and if they don't return to it before midnight, they will die a horrible death. Well then, can’t they just pack up and move out? No way. There is an unwritten rule that the longest-staying tenant can move out only when someone moves into the building. Those who break this rule will also die horribly at the stroke of midnight!

Now that these ridiculous rules have been laid out to Aimi – by a woman fortunate enough to be able to move out – you would expect the young girl to go berserk, or at least relate the predicament to someone, a friend or the cops. No, she seems resigned to the fact and even starts investigating the root of the haunting: the mysterious disappearance of a schoolgirl many years ago. The rest of the narrative details what happens when a family breaks the ‘moving out’ rule; how a couple whose breadwinner has lost his job (for refusing an outstation transfer) turns with glee to cannibalism; and how the building’s poor caretaker has to suffer repeated nightmares.

HIGHLIGHTS: The one bright side to this movie is Mei Kurokawa’s screen presence which helps to sustain our interest.

LOWLIGHTS: There is nothing scary enough to jolt us and director Akio Yoshida's attempts at comedy – involving the cannibalistic couple – only fall flat. What's worse, the ending is predictable and derivative, reminding us of other J-horror flicks like “Ringu”. Basically, “Haunted Apartments” seems to have been expanded from a short story like the “Tales Of Terror” anthology made for DVD.

THE LOWDOWN: Mark this one as another J-horror effort dumped into our cinemas.


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