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APARTMENT 1303, 2007
While celebrating with her friends in her new cheaply rented apartment (with balcony and view of the sea) on the thirteenth floor of a building, the young Sayaka unexpectedly jumps off the balcony committing suicide. Her mother goes insane and her older sister, Mariko, decides to investigate the mysterious death of her sister. She finds that there have been many suicides of young women living in apartment 1303. She finds a book telling the tragic story of the Yukiyo and her mother, the first tenants of the apartment and uncovers the truth behind the suicides.
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Apartment 1303 follows a slew of Japanese horror movies such as Ringu, which kicked off the renewed interest in oriental terror, The Grudge, Dark Water and a whole plethora of similarly styled films, albeit with hugely different degrees of success. And on the face of it Apartment 1303 appears to follow such a fit. A simple, often clichéd back story haunting current events, played out with the common, long, stringy haired banshee, creepy soundtrack and an editing style that flicks between languid and manic as though some kind of mental illness actually inhabits the film.
For all the trappings a genre film can have, like being unable to shed new light, life and ideas into the genre, it’s clear that this trend of J-horror has been exploited fully by the Japanese film industry of the back some hugely successful American remakes, and the continued western interest in all things horrific from the east means that this conveyor belt of shock will continue. Apartment 1303 itself is currently being remade and the remake is due for release in 2010.
Well Apartment 1303, as you might expect is about an apartment (guess which number?) that plays host to some mysterious goings on. We’re introduced into the scene when some school or college friends have rented it out to have a party. In the midst of their frivolity one of the girls starts behaving oddly, and ends up, suddenly throwing herself off the balcony. Afterwards her sister, knowing that her sister was unlikely to commit suicide, investigates into why she would do so. While carrying out this investigation a local policeman introduces himself, and his own beliefs about the goings in Apartment 1303. This along with other evidence leads the sister to find out about the history of sudden suicides that has plagued the apartment, which they trace back to its original inhabitants, a mother and daughter.
While I don’t want to give anything away about what gave rise to this evil, it inevitably ends with a word-less-eyes-wide-open confrontation between monster and the surviving sister. The Apartment becomes an almost nest-like tomb in which these forces are raging. And while I was worried that this would just be another freaky girl haunts miserable, all too serious characters offset with some strange noises and wild shrieking (which it was for the most part), but the amount of atmosphere created is truly remarkable given how sparse the setting is. Working in such a confine space, only exiting to really investigate what’s inside, the immersing sensation is optimised and for that makes the film quite spooky, though not terrifying and ultimately makes it quite an enjoyable watch. There are far superior j-horror pictures out there but the most famous ones mentioned earlier really are the tip of what is becoming a vast iceberg. This however is a treat amongst all that other bland white snow.Review by Stefan Leverton 3/12/09