Review of Apartment 143

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A horror film which follows a team of parapsychologists who set out to investigate a series of anomalous phenomena taking place in a newly occupied apartment.
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Movie Review: "Apartment 143"

-- Rating: R (language, some terror)
Length: 80 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2012
Directed by: Carles Torrens
Genre: Horror

"Apartment 143" centers on the White family as they go through a painful transition in their lives. Father Alan (Kai Lennox) is a grieving widow, having just lost his wife in a horrific car crash. He is struggling move on with his son Benny (Damian Roman), who is at five years of age, the only one seeming to adjust well to the loss. Teenaged Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) is the opposite of her brother. Not only is she not coping well with her mother's death, she is clearly going through a case of teen angst. She is hostile to everyone, especially the shell shocked Alan.

Determining that they need a change, Alan decides to move them into an apartment where strange things start occurring. They hear noises and see shadows, which begin to freak them out. They can't call the police for fear that they will think Alan is insane and take his kids away. So who can he call? He brings in a crack investigation team who call themselves parapsychologists. The team consists of Ellen (Fiona Glascott), Paul (Rick Gonzalez) and Dr. Helzer (Michael O'Keefe), who is the leader of the group.

The crew wishes to put several cameras around the apartment to try and document what Alan says is happening. They also have a lot of other paranormal equipment that they hope will help them know whether there might be some kind of ghost or other presence around. They are setting up said equipment when the first strange noises begin.

They hurry to finish setting up and using the equipment. At this stage, "Apartment 143" becomes a little stagnant because Dr. Helzer finds it necessary to explain to the camera what each piece of equipment is and exactly what it is used for. There is too much time taken up with explanations when they could be getting on to the actual investigation. In a movie with a total running time of only 80 minutes, director Carles Torrens can hardly afford to waste so much time on equipment explanations.

Once Dr. Helzer stops explaining and begins interviewing the family members, the film finally gains steam again. Benny is too young to really get much out of, but Caitlyn is happy to talk. She has a bitter relationship with her father and hints at the possibility of abuse. However, it is not until she is seemingly possessed that anything really interesting comes out of her mouth.

The possession scenes are played well by actress Gia Mantegna, daughter of actor Joe Mantegna. Acting chops clearly run in this family as Gia takes Caitlyn from what could have been an annoyingly stereotypical teenager into a much deeper, more complex character.

The audience believes that Caitlyn is temporarily possessed, possibly by the ghost of her dead mother. However, Dr. Helzer feels that she is schizophrenic, explaining that the supposed possession is actually just another side of her personality coming out. Even as the evidence mounts that she is not schizophrenic, Dr. Helzer sticks to his guns with his diagnosis. This leads the team to make some critical miscalculations in how they are handling and investigating the case. These mistakes build up to the final 20 minutes of the film, which is jam-packed with frights and spooky occurrences in what seems to be an increasingly smaller apartment.

Those final, breathtaking and horror-filled 20 minutes redeem the movie from the slower-paced middle. Had screenwriter Rodrigo Cortes spread some of those shocks out over the rest of the film, they likely would have had a lot less impact. That is why it is much easier to forgive all that equipment explaining in the middle of the film. It pays off in the end by saving the best frights for last.

The performances across the board are solid. Lennox in particular is very good as the beleaguered Alan, who makes some big reveals that help explain why the apartment is seemingly haunted. Through Lennox's performance, the viewers see both a loving father and a darker side that could be the abuser being hinted at. Until the end reveal, the audience is challenged to decide on their own whether he is a good or bad father.

"Apartment 143" comes out of Spain, which is where the fantastic "REC" was made. Between these two films, it is an exciting time for Spanish horror cinema. Though it does get saggy in the middle, if the thrills found in "Apartment 143" are indicative of what is to come from Spanish filmmakers, then horror fans have a lot to look forward to.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars