Friday, October 19, 2007

APARTMENT 1303: Lame J-Horror Bid

APARTMENT 1303 (horror thriller)

Cast: Noriko Nakagoshi (pic), Arata Furuta, Eriko Hatsune, Yuka Itaya and Naoko Otani
Director: Ataru Oikawa
Time: 99 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? "Apartment 1303" is what we get when film-makers run out of ideas but feel the need to get on the Japanese-horror bandwagon that has been rolling on in international cinemas for a while. J-horror flicks like Hideo Nagata's "Ringu" (1998) and Takashi Shimizu's "Ju-on: The Grudge" (2003) have been bought over and recycled by Hollywood - and we can forgive director Ataru Oikawa for trying to take a crack at international fame with this uninspired and formulaic effort.
In "Apartment 1303", Oikawa not only rehashes the elements of J-horror flicks, he throws in something extra as well: eye-candy youngsters. This, however, is not going to matter much in his quest considering that Hollywood horrors come with their own quota of eye candy girls.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The generic plot kicks off with a young girl named Sayaka leaping to her death from her 13th floor apartment during a house-warming party with a bunch of her friends. Although the friends have witnessed the event, they would not believe that Sayaka would commit suicide. Neither would her sister Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi). They all conclude that the apartment is haunted and that she must have been 'forced' off the balcony. After all, Mariko soon discovers that four other young women have died in similar fashion over the years.

HITS & MISSES: Of course, the apartment is haunted. It takes a whole hour of repetitious sequences and some very irrational plotting by Oikawa to unravel the story of the mother-and-daughter ghosts behind it. Yes, it is the tried and tired tale of mentally-deranged folks who leave bodies inside walls and closets. What we cannot understand is why would Mariko move into the apartment ALONE, knowing that it is haunted! Oikawa could have overcome this irrational plotting by having a friend of Mariko accompanying her. Also, the investigating cop (played by Arata Furuta) could have been put to better use besides just providing the history of the apartment.
We are thankful that Oikawa has not revived the 'panda-eyed' ghost kid (from "Ju-on") in this movie. Instead, we have the 'long-haired lady' apparition but this has lost its effect over the years. The one jolt viewers may get here comes early in the movie when one of the characters tells a story about a demonic woman with no eyes. After that, it is just a long and dreary wade through familiar waters, waiting for the movie to end.

THE LOWDOWN: It is doubtful that this movie will be recycled by Hollywood, not when there is a similar flick called "1408" which is adapted from Stephen King's short story. It is also about a haunted room on the 13th floor of a hotel...


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