Apartment 1303 (2013)

Based on the distinctly mediocre original 2007 film by Ataru Oikawa, with Apartment 1303 America finally had a chance to convert a J-horror into something better than the original. Unfortunately they squandered this chance and writer/director Michael Taverna delivered a messy, confused and ultimately very boring remake that does nothing to alleviate the problems of the original.

Janet Slate (Julianne Michelle) has had enough of her mad alcoholic mum, out-of-work popstar Maddie Slate (Rebecca De Mornay), and has left home. Leaving her sister Lara (Mischa Barton) to look after mad mommy, Janet rents a flat… without seeing it. Don’t ask. It’s ridiculous.

After moving into Apartment 1303 (not 1408 or Room 237 or Apartment 143) she instantly realizes her mistake. The electricity fluctuates, the neighbours have a creepy teleporting schoolgirl, the building superintendent literally says “let me see your tits”, the flat smells of dead meat and the previous tenant in the flat apparently killed herself. But might still be there.

Unfortunately the fact that Janet moved in without even seeing the place means you lose all sympathy with her instantly. I mean, what a twat. She deserves to get attacked by a mad ghost. Which she does.

There are distinct changes between the original film and Taverna’s remake and none of them are an improvement. The original throws us straight into the story – hello insanity, goodbye sister – whereas the American version focuses waaaaaaay too long on Julianne Michelle’s idiotic Janet, who bumbles about the flat, getting spooked by the ghost/landlord/creepy-teleporting-schoolgirl before bonking her boyf then taking the quick-route to the ground floor, via the balcony. Kersplat.

The original also ensured the sisters’ mother was at least remotely sympathetic, whereas this version has Rebecca De Mornay deliver an over-the-top alcoholic washed-up popstar character with no charm and zero believability.  It’s woeful and distracting stuff. This is such as shame as De Mornay is normally fantastic, having provided memorable turns in both Mother’s Day and Identity. As waste of a great talent.

Despite the focus being on Janet, once she’s lobbed off the 13th floor it ensures Mischa Barton gets to stretch her acting chops as she investigates her sister’s death. Barton does a terrible job with a poor script, humourlessly wandering through the film and appearing to have literally zero sorrow over her sister’s death.

It’s a thankless role that we’ve seen a thousand times as Lana slowly sheds her scepticism in favour of a more supernatural explanation, investigating the ‘crime’ herself. What really happened to her sister? Was it suicide brought on by the awful wallpaper or was it – perhaps – an insane ghost of vengeance?!

I bet you can guess the answer!! Yeah, so that’s the plot. Seriously. There’s little else to this or the original.  Woman is suicided by ghost-bitch and sister investigates. Creepiness ensues. The end.

Talking of the end… bloody hell, what a mess. Honestly. It just unravels into a bafflingly confused attempt to create more mystery but just turns out confusing and bizarre and oddly predictable.

Perhaps the irredeemable and unforgivable horror sin here is the maddening lack of mystery. You instantly learn what’s going on, the ghosts are VERY visible and there are almost no surprises (apart from the end… which is just confusing).

Oh, and apparently the film is in 3D, but not on my DVD screener. I’m sure having things flying at the screen won’t improve the storyline or characters much, although it might make you flinch a bit. Which is scary… right?

Right?

Apartment 1303 isn’t all terrible. There are some interesting moments, some chilling ideas, Madison McAleer is excellent as teleporting schoolgirl Emily and it’s thankfully short, running at sub 90 minutes. And it’s in 3D, which is super special and awesome… right?

Right?

Hello?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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