MRR Review: "Apartment 1303"

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A modern ghost story which turns a love/hate relationship between mother and daughter into a tale of horror. Some rentals are too good to be true.
2.5

MRR Review: "Apartment 1303"

-- Rating: R (some violent content, brief sexuality, and language)
Length: 85 minutes
Release Date: July 25, 2013
Directed By: Michael Taverna
Genre: Horror

The original novel this movie is based on was written by Kei Ôishi, but director Michael Taverna wrote the screenplay for the film. Inspired by the novel, Taverna sticks to the original story, but gives it an American twist.

After an argument with her family, Janet Slate (Julianne Michelle) has had enough. She decides to move out of her parent's house and get her own apartment. She moves to the thirteenth floor of an apartment building in downtown Detroit. At first glance, everything seems to be going well for Janet; she has a job she likes, a boyfriend, and a newfound sense of independence from living on her own. At first, the only things out of the ordinary are her odd nine-year-old neighbor and some weird noises. The young girl warns Janet the last resident in her apartment killed herself by jumping off the roof.

Janet dismisses this warning and writes the young child off as slightly weird. As days go by, she starts to notice more oddities and even wakes one morning with bruises on her arms, which leads her co-workers to believe her boyfriend is abusing her. Eventually, as Janet's problems climax, she becomes possessed by an evil spirit and commits suicide in the same manner as the previous tenant.

Lana (Mischa Barton) goes to the apartment to collect her late sister's belongings. Making what many would consider to be a bad decision, she decides to move into the apartment. The bulk of the story focuses on her, Janet's boyfriend Mark Taylor (Corey Sevier), and the detective (John Diehl) who's investigating Janet's suicide.

Janet's disreputable boyfriend, who's suspected of abusing her due to the bruising her co-workers noticed, works together with Lana to figure out the mystery of why the previous apartment dwellers killed themselves. The detective, who's never named, believes there's more to the deaths than meets the eye. As he states in the movie, "Apartments don't kill people; people kill people." This is what fuels his curiosity as he tries to put the pieces together.

While the detective is hard at work, Lana and Mark are subjected to the same psychological torture and unexplainable phenomena that Janet suffered. Despite the problems, they courageously tough it out and continue on their mission of getting answers to the mysterious and deadly puzzle.

This movie contains many of the characteristics of Japanese horror stories. It focuses on suspenseful scares, a mix of psychological horror, and religious themes such as exorcism and possession. It also relies on shock scares which might turn some people away. However, fans of this genre will likely enjoy this movie.

It attempts to be a psychological horror film; however, the majority of the scares will likely be unintentional flinches due to unexpected shocks. Vivid imagery is created through the use of costumes and makeup, but it falls short of being terrifying, instead making for a nice visual picture. Taverna also makes use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) special effects to add excitement and scares. For fans of CGI effects, seeing this movie in 3D might improve your viewing experience and make some of the scary scenes more realistic and intense.

As the film begins, you get a glimpse into the lives of the primary characters, but unfortunately they aren't developed as much as they could have been. You don't get any insight into what makes these people tick, their backgrounds, or their personalities. Although this isn't uncommon for horror movies, which aren't usually known for deep backstories.

As mentioned, the narrative isn't as polished as it could be, which is unfortunate as the movie features some prominent actors and actresses. Neither Mischa Barton ("The Sixth Sense" and "All My Children") nor John Diehl ("Stargate," "Jurassic Park 3," and "Miami Vice") were used to their full potential.

While "Apartment 1303" doesn't focus too deeply on expanding the story or answering some of the questions it proposes, fans of Japanese horror movies and shock scares might be interested in viewing this movie. As with most horror flicks, it focuses more on trying to scare you and make your heart skip a beat rather than deliver a high-quality plot. Blending an interesting and well thought out plot with truly frightening horror concepts is the sign of an exceptional movie. "Apartment 1303" doesn't exactly come up to this standard, but it can still offer you a fun viewing experience.

Rating: 2.5 of 5