A young Japanese woman has just moved into her new apartment and is settling in happily as she unpacks. Then she receives a telephone call from her boyfriend who is contacting her after attending a funeral, and says he will be over to see her without changing out of his suit. This turns out to be more appropriate than he could possibly imagine as when he arrives at the apartment block he is walking up the steps and is surprised to be taken by the hand by a little girl who points upwards: there is his girlfriend falling from her thirteenth floor balcony...
Apartment 1303 was an identikit chiller from the director of the Tomie films, Ataru Oikawa, here scripting with Kei Oshi and Takamasa Sato. You name the Japanese horror clichés of the 1990s and 2000s and they were here, from the imperiled young heroines and creepy little girls to the tragic villiainess with curtains of long, black hair covering her face. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on how often you've seen this type of thing before and if you have seen it before, if you're sick of it yet.
Apartment 1303 seems designed to be a horror film for young women, as it is actresses who make up most of the cast, and only a couple of them middle aged. After killing off one of the characters who looked to be our lead in the first five minutes, they proceed to do it again when we follow Sayaka who moves into the dreaded place next. She has her friends over for a housewarming, but when talk turns to ghosts she begins to act strangely, eating dog food and looking trancelike.
And promptly jumping over the balcony. After that the focus alters to her sister, Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi) who is understandably shocked about what has happened, but is coping better than her mother. The filmmakers apparently have issues with their mothers, as it is they who are either too controlling, or in the most extreme case, are able to make the spirit haunting the apartment of the title come into being and cause all those deaths. All our heroines want is independence, but their mums won't comply.
The film is flashback heavy as we gradually find out the reason for the haunting. Those scare sequences rely on a lot of creeping about, mainly towards a sinister cupboard, but resolve themselves into a climax of the sort we've seen many times before. Mariko is a decent enough protagonist, and rightly admonishes the owner of 1303 for renting it to young women over and over again depsite the way that they all take a tumble off the balcony eventually, and sooner rather than later. Didn't anyone think there might be somthing wrong before Mariko came along? But the ending is unsatisfying and bleak, perhaps to leave room for a possible sequel. Music by John Lissauer and Masako Miyoshi.
[The CineAsia Region 2 DVD has trailers as an extra.]