Saturday, May 11, 2013

In short: Apartment 143 (2011)

Original title: Emergo

This English language Spanish production directed by Carles Torrens belongs to the established POV horror sub-genre most likely to result in interesting movies at the moment, the paranormal investigation film; or at least likely not to end with people running through the woods.

In this particular example of the sub-genre, a trio of intrepid and experienced science-based paranormal investigators (Michael O'Keefe, Fiona Glascott and Rick Gonzalez) come to the apartment of the White family. Ever since the family's mother died in a car accident, father Alan (Kai Lennox), teenage daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and little boy Benny (Damian Roman), have been plagued by paranormal phenomena running the gamut from pounding and other strange noises, to curious telephone terror, to outright shaking walls. Strangely, even moving from their former house into a cheap apartment hasn't stopped what's going on for long, so Alan must have decided putting up three strangers and their load of equipment, which of course includes a bunch of cameras, in his home for a week is some kind of last chance before something truly horrible happens.

The arrival of the investigators seems to provoke whatever is spooking around the family to heightened activity, and it will take them quite some effort as well as the disclosure of their hosts' family secrets until they can banish whatever is spooking around, until one of those despicable last shot "shock twists" turns the until then rather carefully, if obvious, plot into sheer nonsense.

Fortunately, a badly imagined - or rather not imagined at all but unthinkingly following the most boring of all horror movie conventions - final five seconds really aren't enough to ruin a perfectly decent movie, they're just ending what is until then a conventional and conservative yet quite satisfying film on a needlessly sour note.

Before that, Apartment 143 is a pleasant little spook movie more in the tradition of Paranormal Activity than in that of Blair Witch Project, just without the former's tendency to confuse letting its audience spend forty boring minutes with boring characters doing boring things with dramatic build-up. Turns out you can have the first paranormal activity in your movie after five minutes and still find time to set up characters and relationships while escalating and intensifying what's going on.

The film also does a good job of concentrating on its small, decent, cast and its single location (okay, there is one scene taking place in a subway and two outside or in a car), using the basic claustrophobia of cheap housing to heighten the feeling of supernatural threat; there really is not much room to run away to here. There's not much more to Apartment 143, but in a film that so clearly knows what it is and what it sets out to do, this sort of self-restraint is rather a virtue.

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