It’s never easy moving into a new home the first time, as rebellious teen Janet Slate (Julianne Michelle) discovers. After enduring her alcoholic, attention-seeking mother Maddie (Rebecca De Mornay – The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Mother’s Day) for as long as she can, and much to her sister Lara’s (Mischa Barton) dismay, Janet finds a nice, swanky apartment 13 floors up in a tower block in downtown Detroit and does her best to unpack and settle in to her new home, celebrating her freedom with friends, having sex with her boyfriend Mark (Cory Sevier) wherever she pleases, meeting the weird and unsociable neighbours, finding mysterious bruises on her neck, being grossed out by perverted tenants, hearing voices, seeing shadows and hairy things, the usual. Until she believes something isn’t right with her new dwellings, unfortunately too late as she decides the best course of action is to throw herself out of the window, as Mark discovers when he finds her body, 13 floors down.
Refusing to believe that her sister committed suicide, as the investigation has concluded, Lara decides to find out the truth for herself and also splits from her depressed, overbearing mother to move into Janet’s place in order to discover just what really happened on that floor. Does it have anything to do with the other four women who apparently ended their own lives there, just what does the strange little girl know, and why does Lara’s dead sister still pop up on occasion…?
Based on a novel by Kei Oishi, the author of the original Ju-On (The Grudge), Apartment 1303 was first filmed in 2007, already a long time after the long-haired ghosts and scary children of J-Horror had become clichéd with the films themselves trope laden and predictable, and as such is a mediocre and uninspiring basis for a Hollywood updating, so it’s no surprise that within the opening minutes of writer-director Michael Taverna‘s lazy updating (curiously he was also an executive producer on the 2007 version, possibly how he ended up with the remake rights? ) the cracks are already starting to show. All the usual supernatural tricks are on display; lights flickering on and off, pools of water, howling women, hair all over the place, but devoid of style, flair, suspense and especially horror, the effect being occasionally hilarious but for the main part just dull and tedious, with editing insane enough to persuade the viewer to follow Janet out of the window and end it all too.
Once showing so much promise in her small screen days, Mischa Barton’s acting skills seem to have gone A.W.O.L. lately, though that may just be a lack of enthusiasm, as it seems for the rest of the cast in general. Usually reliable veteran John Diehl (Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park III) does his best to flesh out his role as a world-weary detective but without any development his words are forgotten again once his scenes are over. Rebecca De Mornay still manages to shine in her few scenes- drunk, sexy and dominating (enough to warrant this review an extra point out of five), but due to the narrative structure her character is sinfully underused, showing potential but not taken to the same level as her bad mother role in another remake, the underrated Mother’s Day.
Also available as a 3D version, the 2D review copy gave no indication that an extra dimension would add anything to the overall effect.
By the time everything reaches its frankly bonkers finale, using possession as a convenient way to finish things off illogically and disappointingly, one regrets ever having pressed play in the first place.