Directed by Michael Taverna
Distributed by Koch Media
Director Michael Taverna attempts to stage a 3D-oriented J-Horror remake comeback with a star-led US rendition of Ataru Oikawa’s original haunted house flick Apartment 1303. Here, Mischa Barton runs the show as the beleaguered Lara Slate. While dealing with an already tumultuous home life involving her alcoholic ex-hitmaker songstress mother (de Mornay), Lara finds things taking a turn for the tragic when her younger sister, Janet (Michelle), takes a dive from the balcony of the apartment she had been renting for only a few days.
Moving into the apartment to investigate the reasons behind her sister’s erratic, frightened behaviour in the days prior to her supposed suicide, Lara soon discovers that the titular apartment still houses a particularly nasty resident — one of the ghostly kind, and who doesn’t want anyone else setting foot on their turf.
So far, so fundamental in terms of the cinematic ghost story, but while Apartment 1303 manages to lay the groundwork for such a tale sufficiently, it completely fails to add even a single layer of the necessary basic structure on top to spectacularly awful effect. Each and every cast member seems either bored out of their minds, or hamming for the camera like they’re performing in some hyperbolic Lifetime television special about suburban infidelity. Barton sleepwalks her way through the film, displaying very little in terms of recognisable grief once she has successfully moved into the apartment. Worse still is the painfully obvious slumming of the usually dependable Rebecca de Mornay. She’s a big name to have in a film such as this, but throughout every single scene she seems like she wishes nothing more than to be as drunk as the character she’s playing in order to ride her way through this shit and fail to remember it afterwards. The less said about the supporting actors, and their characters, the better. If this had been filmed as a puppet show, the stiffness may have been forgivable. But it isn’t, and… it isn’t.
Speaking of filming, Apartment 1303 appears to have actually been shot in 3D, rather than being a conversion job, and it shows — but not in a good way. When viewing in 2D (as the DVD edition solely allows — you’ll need Blu-ray for the 3D experience, not that it would help with the narrative issues), the colour correction remains entirely geared towards the inherent dampening of 3D glasses. Thus, everything looks strangely saturated, off-key, and distinctly cheap. At no point does the cinematography here, nor director Taverna’s choice of camera placement and blocking, feel anything close to cinematic.
If you’re looking for scares, look elsewhere as there are next to none to be found here. Save for one surprising revelation that’s delivered as less of a sucker punch than it is a squeaky toy hammer to the upper shoulder, Apartment 1303 is as predictable as they come. Stingers abound, and genuine tension is distressingly scarce. Worst of all, however, is the mind-bogglingly pathetic final act that sees the murderous spirit involved deliver the most laughably absurd playground shove of a death you’ll see on screen this year. At the same time, answers behind the haunting of the apartment are either skirted around or plain ignored, leading to a finale that’s as hollow and unsatisfying as just about everything else on show.
Bereft of interesting characters, dialogue, acting ability, scares, visual aplomb or much of anything else, Apartment 1303 is occasionally good for a derogatory laugh, or simply to witness what must be the middle of one serious mire in Rebecca de Mornay’s career. That’s not what we’re here for, though. No sir.
In terms of special features, Koch Media’s UK DVD release of Apartment 1303 is, fittingly, as bare bones as the story contained within.
1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5
Us and Them Review – Fantastic Acting Bolsters a Tense Standoff
Starring Jack Roth, Andrew Tiernan, Tim Bentinck, Sophie Colquhoun
Written by Joe Martin
Directed by Joe Martin
The age old debate of “Is this movie actually horror?” has been around for decades and will probably carry on for the rest of eternity. As Kristy Puchko recently tweeted, “Just because you think it’s also art doesn’t mean it’s not horror. It just means your definition of “horror” is too damn narrow.” Horror should be able to cast a wide net, just as films in the comedy and drama genres are able to. Where that goes awry is when a film simply doesn’t know its own identity, as is the case with Joe Martin’s feature-length directorial debut Us and Them.
The film follows Danny (Roth), a young man struggling in his lower class status and bristling with untapped rage at the 1% who use the downtrodden as footstools for their enterprises. Hatching a plan with his pals Tommy and Sean to break into the home of a wealthy banker, that scheme quickly becomes unraveled as thread after thread beings unraveling from the original tapestry. Determined but without a Plan B, Danny attempts to use the opportunity to drive home a message to the masses via social media to show that the 99% need to rise up against the 1% and create, as he says, some consistency. But as tensions arise within Danny, Tommy, and Sean, it’s questionable whether or not the night will end in triumphant rebellion or sadistic revenge.
Clocking in at a lean 83 minutes, Us and Them doesn’t waste any time getting straight to the point. Within the first few minutes, we’re already deep mix and ready to watch Danny take on the “man”, to see him wage war against the establishment. But as the film goes on, his mission begins to feel empty as his lack of a plan is mirrored by the misdirection of his anger towards a family that, for all intents and purposes, might be snobbish but haven’t been shown to hurt anyone personally.
This resulting conflict then raises questions about the greater fight that Danny has decided to undertake and champion. Who is the real villain of this story? Who is the hero? Who are we even supposed to care one bit about? While Danny spouts on and on about the injustices of the world, his tortuous methods are cruel and manipulative, undermining his own self-righteousness.
Us and Them practically screams its Ritchie, Tarantino, and de Palma influences. From split screen scenes to “hip” and “cool” licensed background music, Martin clearly wants to be seen in the same realm. The problem is that his script leaps around with reckless abandon in an attempt to overly explain the simple story instead of finding ways to break it into new and exciting territory.
Despite these issues, it must be said that the performances are fantastic across the board. Roth shines as Danny, torn by his own personal griefs that can easily draw sympathy, while Bentinck’s almost frothing, slobbering disdain splashes across the screen. Even with only a few lines each, both Colquhoun as Phillipa and Carolyn Backhouse, who plays her mother, Margaret, revel in their terror. And while I have my critiques about the violence Danny inflicts, I cannot deny that it is brutal and makes for a squeamish experience. Martin milks every drop of the family’s fear to great effect.
While Us and Them comes at a time when financial inequality is undeniably an issue, the film loses its purpose just as it fails to cement itself as a heist thriller, a horror home invasion, or even a black comedy. Its unwillingness to embrace any, or even all, of these genres makes it a lacking film experience.
Us and Them is anchored by stellar performances, Roth especially, but it can’t decide what it wants to be or whom it wants to champion.
SockMonster Short Film Review – The Day The Laundry Fought Back
Starring Briana Evigan, Derek Mears, Soso Bianchi
Directed by Wesley Alley
While some might detest the prospect of doing laundry, I personally find it quite therapeutic – the act of separating the whites from the colors, the perfect amount of detergent to spruce up that awkwardly funky favorite shirt of yours, and then there’s the dryer…a beast all its own. Too long a cycle will have your garments shrunken down to the point where they could become a fashion accessory for a chihuahua – too short will have them wet, wrinkled and limp to the touch, kind of like grandma tucked away in the basement – okay, forget that last part. But what if one day, your laundry had just enough of your shit and decided to strike back in blinding semblance?
Enter Wesley Alley’s short film, SockMonster – produced by Darren Lynn Bousman, this 4 minute front-row seat to “laundrycide” if you will stars Briana Evigan as a grieving woman who looks longingly into the tumbling cylinder of her cellar dryer, almost as if something of hers has gone missing. Crouched on a cold-slab cement floor, she awaits for the door to open as soon as the appliance has run its course…and the results are less than spring-fresh. Alley’s direction coupled with the horror know-how of Bousman all add up to a seriously fun few minutes, and toss in the towering, menacing form of one Derek Mears, and you’ve got yourself an insanely concocted quickie that only has one glaring negative – it’s too damn short! Overall, I can’t recommend this one enough to those wanting a little blood with their bleach…just make sure to use the appropriate amount of stain-lifter, or that shit will NEVER come out.
Hate doing the wash? Well, maybe for one hot minute did you think about how much your wash hates you right back?
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep159 – Demons at the Door
For the last year, Producer Shane has been bugging the shit out of us to give him a “Producer Shane Pick”. After doing everything in our power to get him to forget about “his pick” Shane got his wish. This week we’re discussing 2004’s Demons at the Door, a movie who’s entire soundtrack is provided by none other than the Insane Clown Posse. Yup, it’s gonna be one of those shows!
You think you’ve got what it takes? I’ve been guarding my gate for a long time, bitch. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 159!
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- King 4_$$hole "A great man is made up of qualities that meet, or make, great occasions." James Russell Lowell RIP Bruno
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- Eatit Loved Resolution. I have their follow up "Spring" and "The Endless" on my radar. I can't believe it was listed here! I didn't like the Tall Man. I didn't find it memorable, and thought it very...
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