Rating: 4 out of 5
When I watched Apartment 1303 I was immediately reminded of the Stephen King film 1408. It’s not just the similar names; many of the same concepts apply, though in Apartment 1303 you have a more traditional Japanese story with a Yurei as the antagonist.
The movie involves a haunted apartment, the titular 1303, on the top floor of a resort hotel/apartment complex. Women who live in the apartment have an alarming tendency to commit suicide by leaping from the balcony. The sister of the protagonist is a victim of this curse, and as she packs up her sister’s belonging, Mariko begins to unravel the mystery of the haunted apartment.
This is a “closed room” story – while the main character does leave the apartment, pretty much all the action takes place inside. It’s a very small space as well, which works well for this story. One very nice feature is that the room that is the focus of the haunting is down a short corridor with a traditional rice-paper door. It’s a nice touch as when a character walks down the hallway, you feel like they are passing from the real world into a dangerous situation.
The ghostly little girl next door is also a nice touch. Children in horror movies can either be spooky or cheesy, and in this one, the “all-knowing child” works well and adds to the creepy atmosphere. In the end you come to understand who the child really is, though the movie isn’t exactly explicit about it. I like this, as it lets you draw your own conclusions.
As with many Japanese horror films, there is no happy ending to this movie. It’s very fatalistic, but that fits the tone and is another reason why I immediately was put in mind of 1408. It becomes clear by the end of the movie that no one escapes the curse, and there is no way to appease the angry spirit that dwells within the apartment.
Two final notes about this film, which I highly recommend watching on Netflix. First, this movie is being remade in the U.S. as “Apartment 1303D”, a 3D horror film with Rebecca DeMornay. I don’t see how being 3D will help this film, and I’m hesitant to say it will be any good. Second, if you have a bit of a perverted streak and have a foot fetish, this movie is for you – since most of it takes place in a beachside apartment, the female characters are almost always barefoot and the director seemed to love to frame shots to get their lovely feet into view. Additionally, near the end there’s a bit of “Yurei Yuri” when the ghost rips part of the protagonists clothing off.