– Summary –
Director : Michael Taverna
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Mischa Barton, Rebecca De Mornay, Julianne Michelle, Corey Sevier, John Dhiel, Robert Blanche, Madison McAleer.
Approx Running Time : 101 Minutes
Synopsis: Young woman moves into a haunted apartment. Yawn.
What we think : This film is a train-wreck of ineptitude and sub-par acting. The ghostly goings-on rate way down the list of things this film does wrong; Mischa Barton’s character is terribly written, her acting is atrocious, and the film’s plot seems founded on the cliches of a hundred other films. The opening five minutes alone are enough to make one’s eyes roll with frustration.
Apartment 1303 will not be a success. It cannot, for the sake of humanity, have a positive outcome. Virtually every minute of this dreck is suspense-free tripe, third rate acting mixed with second rate direction; as a film, it beggars belief that people might pay to go see it in the cinema, leading me to utter this warning. Do not, under any circumstances, watch this film in any format, be it cinematic, on disc or downloaded from the internet. The unforgivable arrogance with which this film treats its viewers cannot be overstated.
Janet (Julianna Michelle) moves out of the family home after a dispute with their one-time musician superstar mother, Maddie (Rebecca De Mornay). Janet’s sister Lana (Mischa Barton) tries to be the peacemaker, but their mother makes things difficult. Janet’s new apartment is on a seedy side of Chicago, and one of the yojng residents, a girl (Madison McAleer) informs her that her new abode was recently the scene of a suicide – a young girl jumped out the window. Naturally, ghostly goings-on ensue, leading Janet down the path of madness and her family picking up the pieces.
It’s hard to fathom how a film like this gets financed. Surely, somebody read the script before green-lighting this miasma? Perhaps not – knowing Hollywood, somebody with a suit and tie and no creative will decided they wanted to “be in films”, so they cobbled together some money and some production people willing to jump behind a camera, and out comes Apartment 1303. And by cobbled, I mean somebody sat down with the thickest copy of “horror films for imbeciles” possible, and wrote a script based on every single genre cliche known to man. It’s terrible, this script, from the dialogue to the inconsequentially 1-dimensional characters and the complete lack of tension. The story is apparently based on some Japanese horror story, but whatever interest that version had, has been stripped down to nothing in this absolute shit-pile of a movie.
Let’s have a play by play of how stupid this film is. First, Misha Barton. Second, the acting: not even Rebecca De Mornay (who looks bored the entire time) acts with any conviction; it’s so amateurish, so high-school-production on every level, any potential is sucked from the movie like a daytime soap-opera. Third, flickering lights. Fourthly, ridiculous music cues that are more aggravating than effective. Fifth, stupid acting. Did I mention that already? Sixth, there’s almost no logic to anything that happens here, with characters as stupid and poorly developed as those on display in this thing, it’s a shame it’s all gone to waste. Seventh: Julianne Michelle spends the first twenty minutes of the film talking to herself like an idiot. Why? Because the film isn’t clever enough to generate suspense without somebody talking all the damn time. Eighth, this film’s plot moves with the tenacity of a strangled kitten. Ninth, I goddam wish there were some boobs in this film, anything to liven it up. What little skin there is belongs to Barton, and that’s nothing to write home about at the best of times. And lastly…. well, if you’ve hit this point in the review, you’ll understand my frustration.
I’m not quite sure what the point of Apartment 1303 is, but it’s certainly not to scare anyone. The scares on offer are so poorly telegraphed, so inanely developed, that it borders on the inept. Directed by Michael Taverna, the film’s second-rate scripting and performances are only marginally assisted by the production design, which is effective in a war-torn Bosnia kinda way. Set in Chicago, the film makes little use of locations, instead relying a lot on sets, leaving the film virtually free of connective tissue for an audience. The film’s pacing is off by a long margin; edits are ill-timed and lack conviction, the scenes are paced like glaciers and the intercutting is often nonsensical. I wanted to take this film and cut about twenty minutes of fat off its rotting carcass, to try and speed things up. Perhaps Taverna was going for some kind of Hitchcockian slow-burn flavor, but in this respect, he’s failed utterly. Also, Apartment 1303 was marketed with 3D front and center – I watched this thing in 2D and there’s no way in God’s great universe this film might benefit in any way from an added dimension. The cinematography is flat and uninspired, and the color scheme of the film feels like somebody pissed on the lens. It’s terrible to look at, truly, and to assume somebody felt a 3D screening might be something people would pay for, is a gross overestimation of people’s tolerance for being force-fed shit.
What really annoyed me about the film, more than the terrible overacting and the clunky, ridiculous script (serious, De Mornay signed on for this after reading the script?) was the fakery used by Taverna to elicit some tension in the viewers by using (or should I say, over-using) sound and music cues to boost emotion. Music jars, bangs and thuds into earshot every time somebody walks around the corner, opens or closes a door, or turns a light on in a dark room. Once would be enough, because it would be effective, but Taverna uses it all the damn time, ensuring the film’s jumbled trajectory suffers from malaise. So to, the sound design on this seems to have been produced by somebody with no clue as to the workings of a horror film. Sometimes it’s what we don’t hear which is more frightening. Jump cues are effective on the odd occasion, but it seems like every line of dialogue, every glance and scowl, every eerie edit to that damned creepy little girl, is accompanied by frenzied violins, or juddery scrapings and scratchings, or simply heightened reality (seems to me like every door in this movie shuts with the power of a castle drawbridge) which suffocates any attempt at shock or awe. Instead, it’s simply awe-ful.
If you are forced to watch Apartment 1303 as some kind of torture, then you have my eternal pity. I mean it; this film is utter garbage of the worst kind. It’s ineptitude and tax-write-off masquerading as creativity, a schlock film designed around high-production values that comes unstuck from virtually frame one. Nobody gets away with it in this film. Nor should they; it’s a failure in every respect and should be avoided by all fans of horror, and fans of cinema in general. Avoid like the plague.