Isn’t the J-Horror phenomenon over? Long over? Didn’t James Wan with Saw and Eli Roth with Hostel introduce torture porn to a PG-13 weary horror contingent and wipe out the need for any more middling girl ghost romps based on far superior Asian offerings? If not, then Apartment 1303 3D (not this gimmick again) should be commended with sticking by the struggling scary movie strategy. If, on the other hand, the audience is sick and tired of visiting haunted locales with horrible pasts that end up being infested with sour-faced spooks having a bad hair day, this will only confirm their lack of caring. It’s a very bad movie indeed.
Frustrated with her drunk, abusive rock star mother (Rebecca De Mornay), Janet Slade (Julianne Michelle) goes out and gets her own apartment. At first, she likes her new digs. Then she starts experiencing unusual things. The doors to her balcony will not stay closed. There’s noises coming from her bathroom and closets, and there’s a horrible malodor permeating the air. Before she can figure out what’s happening, she dies in a tragic “accident,” leaving her sister Lana (Mischa Barton) and her undercover cop boyfriend Mark (Corey Taylor) to pick up the pieces. Investigating what happened, the duo run into a mysterious little girl with a sour attitude and a lecherous super (Gordon Masten) who exudes sleaze.
Eventually, we learn there’s a ghost involved, an angry female poltergeist who has a propensity for pushing people off the ledge and down onto the Detroit concrete below. Why? Who knows? Apartment 1303 3D may think it offers up explanations as to why these things are happening to Lana and her family, but the truth is that the undeniable tedium you experience while watching this movie saps all the concern out of you. There’s no suspense, no legitimate reason to root for these characters. Janet is a ditz, her sister is inert, and Momma De Mornay overacts to the point of lunacy. It’s a telling sign about this silly excuse for a scary movie that we spend more time watching said actress’s washed up musician trying to write a new song than figuring out why this spectre is so pissed at the world.
Michael Taverna, who directed as well as adapted the screenplay from the original Japanese source, luxuriates over his (obviously fake) apartment setting so much so that we know more about its fixtures than the faces populating it. Ms. Michelle, with her plastic surgery pout and obnoxious demeanor, is a horrible initial investment. She brings nothing to the role, and remains more or less vacant even as she’s tormented. Then Ms. Barton proves that someone can actually be worse. The production design mimics movies we’ve seen before and there’s that distinct Ring/Grudge/Dark Water vibe to everything, even the cinematography. In fact, if it were funnier, one could easily argue that Apartment 1303 3D was some kind of sly spoof, a lampoon of a long dead horror fad.
Instead, it’s a chore, a yoke around the neck of even the most forgiving fright fan. Taverna and company might think they’re “old school,” substituting shocks for splatter, but nothing should be this aged. Instead, we are forced to sit through an illogical mess that makes no sense, offers few legitimate scares, and more or less meanders until it decides to dump on everything an invested viewer might care about. One of the main reasons the J-Horror phenomenon faded so fast was because the novelty wore off. Audiences began to anticipate a film’s approach before it was even released to theaters. Apartment 1303 3D suffers from the same sense of familiarity. It’s a dull, droning disaster.