Review: Apartment 143 (2011)

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Cast: Francesc Garrido, Fiona Glascott, Rick Gonzalez
Director: Carlos Torrens
Country: Spain
Genre: Horror
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Apartment 143 goes on limited release on June 1st, and is already available on VOD.

Found footage is so overused at this point that even the reviews damning the latest film to employ the technique are, in themselves, riddled with clichés. It’s near impossible to discuss yet another purveyor of home video style chills without noting its roots in Paranormal Activity, maybe even The Blair Witch Project. The genre’s critics have become just as blandly monotone as the films are, for the simple reason that there’s nothing much to be said. We get the same setup almost every time: a residence and its occupants are threatened by some otherworldly happenings, prompting them to mount cameras in every room of their home. Cue falling crockery, shifting furniture, the occasional hint of a face in the shadows, and a soporific sense of plotlessness periodically interrupted by a loud noise.

Apartment 143 adopts the overarching structure and aesthetic of Paranormal Activity, invests it with some run of the mill teenage tantrums, adds in some traces of The Exorcist—more likely the many films that have borrowed from that—and leaves it all to ferment for a boring 76 minutes.

Apartment 143 of course includes all of these within its titular confines, giddily plucking from recent successes with all the artfulness and consequential foresight of a schoolchild in a sweetshop. Its characters are a widowed man and his two children—a young boy and teenage girl—and the team of three parapsychologists they hire as an excuse to bring in the found footage. The logistical functionality of the plot is perhaps best summated by the film’s tagline: “the first real ghost story”, this despite one of the parapsychologists’ insistence that ghosts don’t exist. Less than a minute later he describes what ghosts are. Self-contradictions run rampant, the derivative script never once thinking to borrow logic from a forebear.

There’s no crime in a horror film having its clear influences, but simply blending together the stuff that worked in other films without in any way changing things is just unacceptable. Apartment 143 adopts the overarching structure and aesthetic of Paranormal Activity, invests it with some run of the mill teenage tantrums, adds in some traces of The Exorcist—more likely the many films that have borrowed from that—and leaves it all to ferment for a boring 76 minutes. There are the admirable flirtations throughout with the hint of a halfway decent story, the familial conflicts at the heart at least showing some trace of character drama above the level of primordial fears. The baggy weight of formula consistently holds this aspect back, the need to introduce a few new loud bangs to wake everybody up taking precedence and overhauling the work toward crafting human characters. The performances are of little help, all but one (Kai Lennox as the father) as wooden as the coffee table dragged across the floor in the dead of the night.

Apartment 143 rides the crest of a wave just seconds from breaking, its scares so overdone that their efforts are more funny than frightening, their indulgences in tired techniques more amusing than alarming.

Personally I never found Paranormal Activity terribly effective. Long lulls in activity followed by a sudden noise or movement might inspire a slight jump, but so too would somebody beside you sneezing. At least that movie was something slightly new, giving audiences something they hadn’t exactly seen before. Apartment 143 rides the crest of a wave just seconds from breaking, its scares so overdone that their efforts are more funny than frightening, their indulgences in tired techniques more amusing than alarming. Little more than watching a troupe of hapless actors hopelessly attempting to squeeze that last glob from a long-empty toothpaste tube, it’s a pathetic show of flaccid filmmaking entirely absent of both characters and chills. Here is a horror film during which I laughed twice and was never once scared. That’s just not good enough.

[notification type=”star”]31/100 ~ AWFUL. Little more than watching a troupe of hapless actors hopelessly attempting to squeeze that last glob from a long-empty toothpaste tube, Apartment 143 is a pathetic show of flaccid filmmaking entirely absent of both characters and chills.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.