Apartment 1303 (1303 gôshitsu) (2007)

Some rentals are too good to be true.
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Apartment 1303 (1303 goshitsu) - Some rentals are too good to be true

When the made-up term "hair horror" is thrown at movie fanatics, brain scientists maybe estimate that 85% will immediately visualise the stereotypical Asian ghost, the wicked 10% visualise the ungroomed bush popular in 70s exploitation while 5% insist that horror is all around us and we should combat this by smoking pot at music festivals (statisticians insist that 0.78% of the 10% should be used as a margin of error while constipated mathematicians suggest you should work it out with a pencil). Due to the "hair ghost" being as deeply ingrained in Eastern culture as alien probing is in Texan culture, Asian directors are coming up with novel ways to maintain the hair concept as a viable threat rather than forsake their folklore to shake off any typecasting going on in the West. Sion Sono took this concept to new heights with Exte while Apartment 1303 (1303-gôshitsu) attempts to do the same soon after.

Despite the hair angle, this is not the focus of Apartment 1303. This is a much more traditional J-Horror story and, despite suffering slightly from a dissociative disorder somewhere at the 40 minute mark, manages to maintain the traditions that copious Japanese movies have adhered to since Ringu became popular.

The movie starts off like a fairly low budget affair with annoying youngster's texting and telling ghost stories, displaying the overacting abilities that only cheap slasher movies are happy to unleash on the public. This may be an accurate representation of Japanese culture but, if the normal reaction to strange noises and vile odours emanating from the cupboard is to act slightly inquisitive for a few minutes and then investigate, then it is surprising that natural selection hasn't kicked in and ceased movie production in Japan all together. The teenage teenisms, the flippant belief in ghosts and the overall excited and/or agitated attitude towards the suicides in apartment 1303 makes this part of the film far from atmospheric and chilling. The only indication that something more sinister is going on is a brief hair entanglement incident involving the dog and a scary story told at a typical non-offensive apartment warming.

About halfway through, the movie changes tone and morphs into a more atmospheric yet more traditional J-Horror including all of the subtle creepiness with plenty of stops for Lewton to dismount his bus. The main heroine also reveals that she is in fact a capable actress and once the group from the first part of the film have suffered a demise caused by dwindling storyline importance the film takes on a much better overall quality.

The perpetrator is revealed as nothing original with regards to her motives for inhabiting limbo but originality is derived via her choice of hairdressers between life and the afterlife. The focus of the second half of the movie is very much upon a small section of a family unit and the relationships between a mother and her two daughters and the similarities between these and the emotions that once ran high in apartment 1303. The characters develop quickly and proficiently and enamours the viewer in a much more intense way than the first half.

After the unexpected suicide of Sayaka executed via a one-way cordless bungee jump from the 13th floor of her new apartment building, her older sister, Mariko, investigates to try and save the sanity of her grieving mother. This investigation reveals that diving off of the balcony of apartment 1303 is a popular activity for those that briefly inhabit the apartment. Further inspection uncovers the dysfunctional family that originally occupied the flat and explains the origins of the malevolent force that managed to remain.

Sentient dreadlocks aren't explained but a deeper look into Japanese folklore explains this curiosity.

Without the kooky to spooky transition this would be just another Japanese horror reminiscent of Dark Water with regards to tone, so although the introduction to the apartment's back-story feels like filler, it still augments an amount of inventiveness to the entertainment value. Apartment 1303 is enjoyable and worth a viewing as there are numerous moments that provide horror stimulus, an interesting sub-plot, some nice subtleties and a cheeky finish but overall the film seems quite hurriedly thrown together.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies

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