Magnolia Pictures // 2012 // 80 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 12th, 2012
The first real ghost story.
Upon hearing reports from the inhabitants of an apartment that strange and unexplainable phenomena have been befalling the domicile, a three-person paranormal investigation crew sets up shop. The inhabitants: a single father, his teenage daughter, and his young son. The "hauntings" -- if they are indeed that -- are unique in that they've followed the family from their old house into the new apartment.
The crew mounts their cameras, triggers their audio devices, and camps out; watching the night vision cameras and recording every bump in the night. As it turns out, there are plenty of bumps to record. In fact, they're not on the job long before they realize something is seriously wrong. Furniture moves by itself, the doorbell rings with no one at the entrance, and objects fly.
But is this a by-the-numbers haunting or is there something non-paranormal afoot? As the father is revealed to be harboring some big-time emotional distress and a secret linked to his wife's death, the investigation takes on a personal turn. But the question remains: What is causing this craziness?
The mystery driving Apartment 143 is the only hook separating this film from the Paranormal Activity franchise; a comparison that's impossible to ignore. If you don't like your family angst told via grainy camcorder footage and delivered in isolated gobs of exposition, this Spanish language horror flick may not be for you. Then again, if you're after some scares, you could do worse.
Apartment 143 offers jump scares aplenty, but they're mainly in the "Oh crap! Did you see that chair move by itself?!" mode, since the entire film is shot from the POV of the investigators' gear. Strange sounds hit hard and lightbulbs explode, as director Carles Torrens builds his spooky atmosphere...and it works. There is tangible dread penetrating these events and it pays off rather wildly in a culmination of full-on supernatural mayhem.
Still, as effective as some of these frights can be, I was never really scared by what Apartment 143 had to offer. The jumps are fleeting and don't linger; in fact, the only visual that might stick with you happens -- surprise! -- at the very end, and does little to fight back further comparison with Paranomral Activity.
Magnolia's Apartment 143 (Blu-ray) is...odd. The visuals are suitably high-def, landing a solid 1.85:1/1080p transfer, but the enhanced resolution is a hindrance to the film's effectiveness. The success of this experience lies in the camcorder realism of the scenarios, so the heavy grain and simulated low-res quality comes across in HD as post-production after-effects. It's a rare occurrence when enhanced image quality does a disservice to the film's intent. On the other hand, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master audio mix is a winner, transmitting the myriad of noises that occur within this haunted apartment. The presentation is offered with English SDH and Spanish subtitles, but no additional alternate language tracks.
Bonus features include brief featurettes on the making-of, special effects, levitation, visual concept, art direction, and working with a child actor; an interview with the director; and an HDNet inside look.
While the key to the phenomena is unique, don't expect to achieve anything more than a Friday night with the lights off. Apartment 143 just doesn't do enough to separate itself from its genre brethren, but a creepy girl floating in mid-air with her eyes turned white is still sort of interesting.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R