Apartment 143(Emergo) (2011)
(15) Running time: 82 minutes
Director: Carles Torrens
Writer: Rodrigo Cortes
Starring: Rick Gonzalez, Kai Lennox, Fiona Glascott, Michael O’Keefe, Gia Mantegna
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
From the wonderful mind of Rodrigo Cortes (Buried, Red Lights) comes the film Paranormal Activity wishes it was. Now, I don’t really enjoy comparing films much, but you cannot ignore there are a number of similarities between Apartment 143 and the Paranormal Activity films. However, what makes Carles Torrens first feature length film so much different, is that it is actually very scary and wastes no time getting down to the good stuff. Now, I love the Paranormal Activity films, but Apartment 143 takes things to another level. Cortes promised he and Torrens were going to “re-invent” the found footage genre, and my word they have made good on that promise let me tell you!
Following a very familiar premise, here we have a team of parapsychologists who have been asked by widower Alan White (Lennox) to do some investigating on his small flat. After his wife passed away, White and his daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and young Son moved away from their old house due to “unexplained events” causing both stress and potential harm to the family. White has now lost his job, and does his best to look after his kids as well as he can, only the strange occurrences seemed to have followed the family to the new flat. So far, so cliché you say? In all honesty, yes, it is butApartment 143 is so much more than a simple copy of everything that makes these movies so good. Here we get a film not afraid to take risks, not afraid to be a little controversial and certainly not afraid to build tension and deliver often horrifying and frightening scenes. This film takes the whole paranormal ghost found footage genre and takes it right to the edge, and usually over it with terrific energy.
Before you even get a chance to properly meet the team of three investigators, we are in the apartment and the ‘activity’ begins almost straight away. Within the first five or so minutes this film has delivered scares way beyond anything you ever imagined, and that’s just the start.Torrenshas got no time to spare with boring filler scenes; everything here is used for maximum effect and develops the incredible story at a breakneck pace. Those expecting another slow, building horror will be sadly mistaken. This film never lets up, not for a second, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The characters are excellent and totally believable: Alan and his desperation to save his broken family, his ‘troubled’ daughter and inquisitive son. The team are also excellent: Michael O’Keefe plays the older and wise Dr Helzer, with Paul (Gonzalez) being the cocky cameraman and Ellen (Glascott) playing the by the rules second in command. The story of Alan’s broken family is touching and at times very tragic, and the emotional stuff is handled brilliantly. Seeing him struggle to talk to his daughter, who is at “a difficult age”, is raw and passionate filmmaking at its very best. The investigators are superb, and the twist here is that they want to prove there is NOT any paranormal stuff going on, which makes for some interesting and controversial dialogue.
As you can imagine though, there does appear to be something spooky going on and the film delivers these moments of pure horror over and over again. Each time it becomes more intense, and the ideas on offer never get boring. Simple banging on the walls to an all out warzone are handled expertly well with the found footage set up. Cameras which have been placed in the corners of rooms work brilliantly to up the anti of the events, and the often bizarre angles from these cameras really help the sense of something not being right. There is even a disturbing séance added in for good measure. Basically, nothing is left to chance, and all the ingredients are here for the perfect found footage shocker. When the investigators set up all their gadgets you honestly believe in what they are doing, and when they talk, you listen. Everything is delivered with such believability and passion by all involved that it is very difficult not to be caught up in the films realism. Only a final money shot spoils the proceedings, and sadly ruins what has been a pretty much perfect setup. However, with so many expertly delivered shocks and scares and SO much good stuff, the film can almost be forgiven. This is a thrilling, exciting and fascinating ride into real terror and genuine scares, When Dr Helzer announces “its time to move on to the next stage”, the words will send shivers down your spine.
There are ideas aplenty here that really really work: a strobe lighting scene is almost too tense to endure, the simple sound of a phone ringing, or a kettle moving right up to the more violent stuff all amaze and terrify in equal measure. This is Paranormal Activity pumped up and elevated to unbelievably dizzying heights of raw, uncompromising terror and is certain to test even the bravest of viewers. In short, you can’t go far wrong with Apartment 143: this is terrific stuff, handled and delivered with care, passion and precision. It is very near perfect, and is guaranteed to scare the living shit out of you. Do not watch alone!