Monday, May 18, 2015

Sub(par)let: "Apartment 143" (2012)

If it came out in the last five years, falls into the horror genre, and is currently streaming on Netflix, then it must be yet another "found footage/point-of-view" horror film.

Widower Alan (Kai Lennox) and his children Benny (Damian Roman) and Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) are experiencing odd phenomena in their new Los Angeles apartment (this was filmed in Barcelona, which makes for a lousy substitute for southern California). Things go bump in the night, lights flicker...all the usual stuff. Stoic Dr. Helzer (Michael O'Keefe) and his assistants Ellen (Fiona Glascott) and Paul (Rick Gonzalez) move into the apartment and set up their equipment to capture the strange happenings. Right away, doors open on their own, pictures on the wall change position, and objects are strewn about, all of which is captured by Helzer's cameras and scientific readings. Caitlin hates Alan, presumably because of her mother's death, but Helzer digs deeper as the titular apartment turns into a vortex of paranormal activity.

If you have seen any episodes of any of the ghost hunting shows on basic cable television, then you are familiar with terms like 'poltergeist' and 'EVP', and occurrences like temperature drops and motion sensor alarms. The film makers still go about explaining it to the audience by having the researchers explain to Benny what all the neat lights and buttons do. This drags the film down, and introduces a routine- the ghost hunters set up some equipment and explain it, something shocking happens, and then we cut to the cast doing something innocuous as if everything was okay. I laughed out loud after one particularly violent episode, which led into a nice quiet little breakfast scene.

The good news is the film seems to have been scripted, as opposed to letting the cast improvise their story into a corner (which happens in tons of these types of films). Torrens can frame a jump scare well, but you don't jump to that scare when you expect the scare. O'Keefe's character is an anomaly, I'm not sure the actor himself knew if Dr. Helzer was a believer or a debunker. Lennox comes off best with his best scene being a very long monologue about his relationship with his now-deceased wife (and supposed spirit) which held my interest for longer than it should have thanks to his performance.

In the end, "Apartment 143" is an unsatisfying horror flick, helped immensely by some good acting and an unimprovised screenplay. You've seen it all before, and it's disheartening that as you read this, more ghost hunting and found footage stories are being filmed, zooming through the ether and directly into your living room via streaming services. (* * *) out of five stars.