4.0 out of 5 stars The haunted apartment motif
When dealing with genre films, in this case the Japanese yurei, it isn’t really important to judge how original they are, but it how well they riff on the established tropes. All zombie flicks have the walking dead, but some walk with a jauntier step than others. All vampire flicks have blood suckers, but some pack a little more bite. All yurei flicks are going to have long-haired, white faced girls, and what matters is where you go from there.
“Apartment 1303” isn’t a great film, but it doesn’t try to be. It is a simple haunted-apartment story, with no intention other than offering some entertainment and some chills, both of which it does just fine. The premise is actually a real and ongoing situation in Japan. When there is some known ghostly activity in an apartment, or where a suicide or murder has been committed, the rent becomes super-cheap although the rental agent often doesn’t tell you why. Just by the price of the apartment you know something is going on.
Director Oikawa Ataru is best known for the Tomie series, and I believe this was his first venture into the yurei genre. He handles the conventions well, and maintains a nice spooky atmosphere for most of the film. Lead actress Hatsune Eriko (Uzumaki) handles her horror-duties well, and it is nice to see her pop up again. The movie derails a little bit when Oikawa goes for the special effects shots rather than the atmosphere. Up until one specific scene, he had kept his camera tight and claustrophobic, making the best use of the unseen and dark corners, until the sudden grand reveal brings everything a little bit too much into the spotlight.
If you are in the mood for a pretty straight forward genre flick, and just want some easy chills, then “Apartment 1303” has what you need. Of course, it isn’t on the same level as Ring or Ju-on, but comparing every single Japanese yurei film to those would be like watching every single ghost film and saying “It was good, but not as good as Kubrick’s The Shining. Not every flick needs to be a masterpiece to be enjoyable, and this one is good enough.