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Apartment 1303 (Oikawa Ataru 2007)


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Apartment 1303 [1303 go shitsu]

Genre: Haunted House Horror
Director: Oikawa Ataru (2007)

review in one breath

One after another, a series of new tenants in an oceanfront apartment on the 13th floor leap to their deaths in what local police can only describe as "serial suicide". When the sister of the most recent victim decides to investigate, she discovers that Apartment 1303 holds a very dark, powerful and horrific secret.

intro

Apartment 1303 is directed by Oikawa Ataru, a name familiar to J-Horror fans through such films as Tomie (1999), Tomie: Beginning (2005), Tomie: Revenge (2005) and Tokyo Psycho (2004). The filmographer is Tokusho Kikumra whose past works include the Ju-On films with director Takeshi Shimizu and several films with director extraordinaire Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Together, along with a decent cast, the ingredients all seem in place for a decent horror tale. And by and large Apartment 1303 is just that, though it suffers from a rather confusing storyline which may leave you scratching your head if you give it a second thought.

This is squarely within the Haunted House genre and does a rather good job of portraying a seemingly innocuous apartment by day as a very creepy and spook-filled haunt by night. Unfortunately for those quite familiar with contemporary Japanese horror, most of the narrative's elements and sub-plots will seem eerily familiar. There is the apparently obligatory backstory of a sad mother-daughter relationship, the female-laden cast, the creepy little girl, the increasingly foreboding closet in a back room, and the long black hair. Oh, that hair! There's also an attempt at sympathetic ghoulie-hugging (gone awry). Though all of these elements are arranged in a way unique to the film, the sense that I had seen most of this before, perhaps most palpably in Hideo Nakata's Dark Water (2002) was almost inescapable, even down to the film's very evident intent to invoke some sort of statement regarding single mothers and their daughters.

But there are a lot of cute girls here, including some in frilly maid uniforms, so make of that what you will.

plot

When happy-go-lucky Sayaka jumps from the thirteenth floor balcony of her new apartment after only one day (!), her elder sister Mariko (played by Noriko Nakagoshi) refuses to believe it was suicide despite the conclusions of the police report. The fact that she and her mother soon begin seeing dreadful apparitions of Sayaka doesn't help and with the help of a creepy little girl in the apartment next door and a local detective familiar with the incident learns of the dark history of Apartment 1303.

Years prior a rather shocking story emerged when a quiet young woman leapt to her death from the balcony of the apartment. When the police searched the home during their investigation, they found the mummified corpse of the woman's mother whom she had apparently murdered and kept in a closet in the back room. Since that initial event, no less than eight young woman had similarly jumped from the same balcony soon after moving in. Though this pattern is obviously more than mere coincidence, the police can only deem them suicides since there is no evidence of an accident or foul play.

It is only when Mariko spends the night in the apartment herself that she learns first hand what lies behind the suicide of her sister and the many others.

verdict

Well, as I said above, there isn't anything earth shattering here. Most of what you'll see can be found in other, better Japanese horror films. It was certainly worth the rental fee and i can recommend that you see this, but only for its superficial, if not mindless entertainment value.

And speaking of mindless, I found that the manner in which this film resolves itself simply defies explanation. Sure, I understand the value of "mystery" and of leaving some threads unresolved in order to feed the imagination's fears, but this borders on (if not wholly indulges in) the illogical. I know where this film wants to go and perhaps understand what it is trying to say, but unless a ghoulie can be two separate people in a single moment (and frame), I don't see how director Oikawa hopes to pull this off. If you see this and think you have some insight, feel free to leave a comment below and shed some light for us.

In the meantime, I'll leave this in the "unsolved mysteries" category.

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD (with subtitles). Available through most US mainstream venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Not much here other than a recombination of familiar horror elements. Some blood and crumpled bodies. No passion, but plenty of cute girls. Decent haunted house tale pieced together from other effective films.

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