When a film comes pre-loaded with certain terms or phrases – ones that usually begin with ‘Classic Film Title meets Flavour-Of-The-Month Film Title’, contain the words ‘found’ and ‘footage’ or ‘romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston’ – then there’s a certain amount of prejudice that may cloud what could otherwise be a decent film. Since the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999 there have been many examples of the found-footage horror film and more recent supernatural films like Insidious, Paranormal Activity and The Last Exorcism – the last two titles combining ghostly goings-on with the hand-held camera medium – have all managed to put the willies up mainstream audiences to some degree but for the more discerning genre fan those films offered little in the way of genuine scares. So how does Apartment 143 stack up against the so-called big boys of the genre?
A team of paranormal investigators are called to the apartment of Alan White (Kai Lennox), his moody teenage daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and young son Benny (Damian Roman) to investigate the strange activity that has been happening to the family. It turns out that the Whites were terrorised by strange unseen forces in their old house and moved to the apartment to get away, but somehow it has followed them. The team, consisting of Ellen (Fiona Glascott), Paul (Rick Gonzalez) and their boss Michael (Michael O’Keefe), set up cameras and other hi-tech equipment around the White’s home in a bid to capture some evidence of supernatural forces at work, and before long the phone starts ringing with nobody on the other end, the doorbell rings but nobody is there and things start getting moved around but as things start to escalate it soon becomes clear that Alan hasn’t told the team the whole story.
Apartment 143 doesn’t waste any time in setting up its story and establishing the main characters. Approximately six minutes in we’re given our first example of what has been terrorising the White family and the film keeps on giving you something every few minutes, usually followed by a quiet moment of reflection or explanation by one of the characters, who don’t really give you much about themselves but are reasonably familiar if you’ve seen other haunted house films.
And familiarity is a good word to use with this film, as opposed to calling it unoriginal, which would instantly give it a negative connotation. There is nothing here that hasn’t been seen in any ghost/supernatural/possession/haunting film from the last fifty years – you could say that it ticks all the boxes – but it is all put together in a snappy and effective way that doesn’t ever drag or become overly irritating, which is usually the biggest fault with these types of films.
The film does, however, have a few flaws that, whilst not detracting too much from the overall experience, are glaringly noticeable. A knowledge of similarly-themed films is something of a curse here as it is fairly obvious early on what the cause of it all is going to be, and the final explanation is a little on the limp side. It’s also pretty hard to get a fix on whether Michael O’Keefe was deliberately underplaying his role or not, as his reactions to anything that happened throughout the film were as if he wasn’t seeing the same things we were and his line delivery, despite being the character that we’re supposed to listen to the most, just didn’t carry any weight.
So overall, Apartment 143 is a decent enough shocker with a few genuinely chilling moments. The quick pans and edits that usually make these types of films unbearable somehow work along with the script to make what could have been something very plodding and tedious into something that makes you want to find out what’s going on. It isn’t very original and the ending is rather predictable and unsatisfactory but the journey to that point is quite engrossing and that, for a film of this style, is enough of a reason to check it out.