As young Yuka movies into her new apartment, room 1303 of a plush high-rise hotel, she takes a break from unpacking to ring her brother. He invites himself round before the call is over.
But as soon as the call ends, Yuka is disturbed by a noise from the back room. She goes to investigate and is confronted by something unseen by us - something so terrifying that it pushes her towards the apartment's balcony.
The brother arrives just in time to witness Yuka falling to her death in the blue round swimming pool thirteen floors below.
A short while later, Sayaka moves into room 1303. On her first night she holds a party with a few friends and boyfriend Iwata. But after being disturbed by a noise in the back room, Sayaka returns to the party displaying some very odd characteristics.
She eats dog food from her pet's bowl, then straps a bicycle helmet on while telling her astounded friends it will help protect her head from smashing ... then without warning she leaps from the balcony to her death.
At Sayaka's funeral, Iwata speaks to her sister Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi, UNHOLY WOMEN), and tells her that Sayaka's death was not a suicide. He saw a look in her eyes that suggested something more sinister was occurring. Initially sceptical, Mariko becomes more intrigued when Sayaka's ghost appears briefly to her proclaiming "Mom pushed me".
Mariko visits her grieving mother, who clearly favours Sayaka over her sibling, constantly mourning over why it had to be her that died. With the mother ill-stricken with grief, Mariko resigns herself to sorting out Sayaka's affairs - and investigating her mysterious death further.
She begins by going to apartment 1303 and going through Sayaka's effects: photo albums, her mobile phone etc. All of which provokes some soft-focus flashbacks to happier times, and tears back in the present day.
Mariko stays at Sayaka's apartment over the course of a few nights, while sorting out removal firms and so on. It's not long before the usual stuff starts happening: unexplained gusts of wind indoors; flickering lights; noises coming from other rooms; apparitions appearing on old photographs; shadowy figures rushing by in the back of the frame, unnoticed by Mariko ... your standard J-Horror fare.
And if that wasn't enough to spook Mariko, the little girl who lives in room 1302 (who incidentally witnessed both earlier deaths) turns up - clutching Sayaka's favourite teddy bear - telling Mariko how every woman that's ever lived in apartment 1303 has met a similar fate ...
APARTMENT 1303 takes every cliché of the J-Horror cycle and churns them out repeatedly - the movie is peppered liberally with endurance-testing scenes of various women tiptoeing slowly through the darkened apartment, creeping sluggishly towards a wall behind which something sinister may lurk, all the while the spooky music building gradually. Honestly, the film would be 20 minutes shorter without these tedious scenes.
Despite using the above tried-and-tested scare tactic umpteen times, it says a lot about APARTMENT 1303 that it never works. This film nicks tricks from every J-Horror movie you can think of, adding nothing new to the mix. The skewiff camera angles, jarring editing, creepy child, weird narrative of the third act ... you've seen it all a million times before. And, let's be frank, it got boring a good couple of years ago.
Without an ounce of originality or emotional pull (we don't get to see enough of Sayaka to miss her when she dies, and Mariko is plain dull as the lead damsel in distress), APARTMENT 1303 limps through a tired Asian ghost story formula until finally reaching it's unreservedly non-shocking climax. Oh, and the sparse use of CGI is clumsily executed too.
The film is presented uncut in a reasonably sharp anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. Images are clear and although colours seem a little washed out, there is minimal grain and the movie looks bright enough. The one thing APARTMENT 1303 has going for it is it's attractive cinematography, which is given good service here.
The Japanese audio is available in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both offer dependable playbacks. Optional English subtitles are available.
Static menu pages include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 19 chapters.
Extras are limited to the original theatrical trailer - anamorphic 1.85:1 with Japanese 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles - and the UK DVD trailer, which is basically a shorter version of the theatrical trailer removing all the clips that contained dialogue.
Other than that, all we get are trailers for DRAGON TIGER GATE, WELCOME TO DONGMAKGOL, DEAD MAN'S CARDS and CHOCOLATE.
If you're looking for a tepid, cliché-strewn Asian horror movie (even more so than how most have become these days) then look no further.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Showbox Media Group Ltd|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|