Apartment 1303 in the Blue Palace Hiroaka has cheap rent. Why? The building is famous for being haunted by ghosts. Not really. The reason the rent is cheap is because it is far away from the train station. At least that is the story given by the Maple Housing real estate agent to Sayaka Imōto who is moving to her first apartment away from older sister Mariko (Noriko Nakagoshi) and their mother (Naoko Otani). All seems well Sayaka’s house-warming party until she leaps off her thirteenth floor balcony. Sayaka’s mother is devastated by the death and in an effort to prevent her from sliding into madness Mariko decides to investigate. She soon uncovers a history of suicides connected to the apartment stretching back to a tragic relationship which exerts a supernatural influence. Does a creepy little girl know more than she is letting on.
The film is unsurprising and the atmosphere is flat. Direction is solid and there are nice tracking shots that glide around introducing characters and allowing spooks to pop up. Unfortunately the script contains familiar elements from better films like Dark Water and Carrie and you can tick the clichés off as a tragic relationship mired in abuse and a bad ending is uncovered as the reason for the haunting and the heroine sees parallels with her own life.
Although it shows a degree of genre savvy by playing on clichés early on the ghouls are from J-horror central casting. They drift in and out of scenes and just visible, partially obscured by a curtain or behind a person’s shoulder. They love making mysterious mobile phones calls and then there is the long hair peeking out ominously from a closet in a haunted tatami room down a dark corridor. Fans of J-hora will recognise the landscape and inhabitant immediately.
A film this unoriginal needs to go bananas but favours restraint and spiky moments of horror fails to coalesce into a compelling whole until the very end where the film morphs into Hellraiser and indulges in hilariously appalling CGI. I got the feeling that the director and writers grew tired of trying psychological horror, threw up their hands and chucked all sorts of horror clichés at the screen in an ending so absurd that it bordered on humorous.
Trying to rescue the material are a lot of talent that do a lot of emoting with Noriko Nakagoshi putting in a very strong performance as a daughter struggling with the grief of losing a sister and her mother’s love but few of the events and other character rose above perfunctory thanks to the script. The actors include Eriko Hatsune – Norwegian Wood, Spiral, Yuka Itaya – Survive Style 5+, Arata Furuta – 13 Assassins. Cinematography is by Tokusho Kikumura who has worked on Cure and the Ju-On franchise amongst many others.
The best line in the film goes to the little girl, Chika Arakawa as she deadpans “There goes another one.” as another character sails off the thirteenth floor balcony.
A remake starring Mischa Barton is due out next year.
Romaji: 1303 Goshitsu
Release Date: October 27th, 2007 (Japan)
Running Time: 115 mins.
Director: Ataru Oikawa
Writer: Ataru Oikawa, Kei Oishi, Takamasa Sato, (Screenplay),
Starring: Eriko Hatsune, Yuka Itaya, Naoko Otani, Arata Furuta, Noriko Nakagoshi, Chika Arakawa,