Apartment 1303 DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Tartan Video
Well, I don't want to get my face all smashed up, you know? – Sayaka
Directed by Ataru Oikawa
Written by Ken Oishi, Ataru Oikawa and Takamasa Sato
2007, Region 1, 94 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 23rd, 2007
Noriko Nakagoshi as Mariko
Arata Furuta as Sakurai
On paper, Apartment 1303 looks to be a solid movie. Co-written by Ken Oishi — scribe of the novel "Ju-on" (yes, that "Ju-on") — and director Ataru Oikawa, the man who helmed three of the eight Tomie movies, it already has a good starting point. Throw in a magnificent performance by Noriko Nakagoshi and the movie is making itself.
Apparently, that's what those involved thought, too — that the movie would write itself — because they didn't bother to do anything original with 1303. That in itself wouldn't be so bad if there were some scares to make up for it, but there aren't. Just a semi-decent script over a piss-poor plot that has more holes than a graveyard in a Romero movie.
Noriko Nakagoshi stars as Mariko, a young woman who is crushed, and surprised, to find out her sister took a swan dive off the balcony of her new apartment. Refusing to believe her sister offed herself, and with a little push from a police detective named Sakurai (a character that really offers nothing to the film but to further the plot), Mariko discovers sis wasn't the only person to leap of 1303's poolside balcony. 1303 has a history of death, starting with a mother/daughter murder/suicide years earlier.
And there you go. Do I really need to further go into how it's up to Sarah to solve The Case of the Angry Apartment? I think not.
What's really frustrating about 1303 is it's so dumbed down from what I expect from Asian horror — specifically from the guy who wrote Ju-on, one of my favorite horror movies, Asian or otherwise. In one scene, some crazy kids partying in 1303 complain about the horrid smell coming from a closet (close up on the closet). Minutes later, Sakurai informs Mariko that the girl who killed her mother stuffed her body in a closet, and it was there so long it mummified. Cut to close up of the same closet. THANKS. I probably wouldn't have got that without that second closeup.
And how, exactly, does a landlord keep renting out an apartment where young women are plunging to their deaths? Especially if there was a book written on it. I'm thinking if the case was infamous enough to deem a book written, it might be a good idea to turn the deathpartment into a storage closet.
If there's one saving grace in Apartment 1303, it's Nakagoshi. Her portrayal of the grief stricken Mariko is excellent. Even when Mariko puts on a tough exterior, you can see the pain underneath the façade, and when she finally does break down from grief, it's very real and very sad. That's a huge credit to Nakagoshi, as while I didn't care a terrible amount about the movie, I felt myself rooting for her character nonetheless.
I have to acknowledge the shots of 1303, as well. While there isn't much substance on the disc, there is certainly a lot of style. Cinematographer Tokusho Kikumura captures the moods fantastically. One scene in particular has Mariko sitting on a bench reading, by some sort of fair. Lit mostly by a huge Ferris wheel, it aptly shows Mariko's being alone in her mission, as the world goes on regardless. This is no surprise, as Kikumura has been the man behind the lens in such films as Ju-on, Ju-on 2, One Missed Call 2 and Cure.
Yet, sadly, neither Nakagoshi nor Kikumura can save 1303 from leaping into the "been there, seen that" abyss.
Video and Audio:
Colors are flat and dull in 1303's 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation, but this looks to be the intent to make things drab and depressing because the picture itself is razor sharp and free from any blemishes. An overall slick picture.
The Japanese DTS track rocks. There is ample use of all the speakers at any given time — one storm scene has you completely enveloped by the sound of rain. This isn't quite a demo disc, but it's damn close
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 and English and Spanish subtitles are available.
- Photo Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Nothing but trailers for Apartment 1303, The Heirloom, The Ghost, Carved, Silk, Arang and Shutter and a photo gallery of about 30 or so pictures are offered for features.
Normally, this would bother me immensely, but I'm tempted to give the disc five stars for not making me sit through any more of this movie.
Apartment 1303 was a direct-to-video flick in its native Japan, and I'm surprised Tartan picked it up for its "Asia Extreme" catalogue. 1303 is obviously an Asian movie, but Extreme it is not.
Skip this one.
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