Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Arriving approximately fifteen years too late, Apartment 1303 is a terrifying shocker based on the highly acclaimed (that’s what it says here) J-horror film of the same name. I say terrifying but what I really mean is terrifyingly bad. I say shocker but what I really mean is shocking. Starring Mischa Barton (The OC, The Sixth Sense), Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle) and Julianne Michelle (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Apartment 1303 is released through Koch Media this June, available to buy on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD.

I was starting to think the curse of the J-horror remake had passed, but this 2012 offering is further proof that you can’t keep a dead girl down. Hollywood will continue to raid the vaults of Asian cinema over the next few years, with remakes of Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance looking most likely to offend, but I was really hoping it had learnt its lesson from the likes of One Missed Call, Shutter and The Eye. Clearly there is still a thirst for tired remakes in Hollywood.

Having grown up under the grip of her fame-hungry mother, Janet Slate takes the opportunity to go it alone, moving into a high-rise apartment in downtown Detroit. Played by Julianne Michelle, Janet is one of the dumbest movie heroines you are ever likely to see. She makes the girl from Scary Movie look like Laurie Strode. Janet is the kind of girl who chooses to investigate the sudden appearance of a shadowy figure in her apartment, rather than get the hell out of Dodge.

Julianne Michelle is one of the films many clouds but she does look good in her underwear so maybe we’ll stick with the silver linings here. She doesn’t even get naked for the one and only sex scene, so she deserves everything she gets quite frankly. I mean really, what kind of American horror movie is this? As Janet’s alcoholic mother, Rebecca De Mornay hams it up like an evil Disney villain. She even gets to sing a bit.

Mischa Baron doesn’t fare much better. After learning the awful truth about the former residents of apartment 1303 she decides to spend the night anyway, and Mischa delivers her lines with as much conviction as a Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesizer. I get the feeling she thought she was playing the part of the apartment at times, because she’s pretty much vacant the whole way through.

Despite strange neighbours and a pantomime landlord, Janet unpacks her things and celebrates her freedom. Talking out loud in case we can’t work out what she’s contemplating. Things like, “How do I walk and talk at the same time?” and “There’s that dead girl again, maybe she’d like a glass of wine.” Quickly followed by, “If only I could work out how to use this bottle opener.” Things like that. Janet stays in the apartment, in spite of a series of inexplicable encounters with ghostly figures, and meets a grisly end some thirteen floors below her new pad.

Boyfriend Mark finds her in the middle of the street, and in keeping with the ludicrous tone of the movie, is probably the most unsympathetic person you are ever likely to witness. The kind of boyfriend who, after hearing that the apartment smells of rotting flesh and the seedy landlord forced his way in to make an ‘arrangement over repayments’, asks his girlfriend whether or not she’s stoned. Before reminding her that he’s really busy and doesn’t have time to comfort her. Quite the charmer I’m sure you’ll agree. Maybe she should’ve taken her clothes off sooner.

Refusing to accept the investigators conclusion of suicide, and aided by the knowledge of previous incidents, Lara is determined to reveal the truth behind her sister’s death. But not before a glorious exchange with her sozzled mother, in which she asks the question, “Want to get out of here and watch a movie?” To which her mum replies, “We just buried your sister”. It’s a wonderful moment, truly inspired and completely unintentional. If only the rest of the film had dared to be so comedic.

Just occasionally Apartment 1303 wins you over with sheer stupidity. Like when Lara asks Janet’s boyfriend if he told the police about the person she was wrestling with on the balcony before she died. To which he replies, “I did, but they told me not to tell anyone.” She doesn’t even question it; presumably she was hoping he’d take her to the movies instead. If you think I’m giving too much away, don’t worry, all that I’ve described takes place in the opening act. I’m kind of hoping you’ve read enough by now.

With tired direction, dumb characters and an alarming lack of scares, Apartment 1303 is one of the daftest horror movies of the year. The acting is horrific, the writing is predictable and there’s very little to recommend. Remakes like this really do make you question the filmmakers’ sanity. Maybe Janet’s boyfriend was onto something after all, because you’d have to be stoned to get through trash like this.

Terrifying. Shocking. Tragic. You have been warned. They’ll probably steal that for the blurb on the poster. AW

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