Ever since William Friedkin’s The Exorcist became one of the most powerful and successful horror films ever, people have tried and failed to replicate the style and power of the film. Most recently we have had The Possession, Lovely Molly, and The Last Exorcism and to an extent the Paranormal Activity films all dealing with someone (usually female) who may have something living inside them that is not of this earthly plane.
Most of the above have had mixed results and most got a decent cinema release. So it’s surprising that Apartment 143 is going straight to DVD because it has a possession element which feels like the most scary and powerful that we have seen on-screen for quite a while.
Launching straight into the action we find ourselves in the run-down apartment of the White family who have moved here after the disturbances at their former home got too much following the death of the troubled wife and mother of the family. Parapsychologist’s Ellen, Paul and Dr Helzer are sent in to investigate and set up the obligatory cameras and recording equipment to see if they capture something and figure out what is happening. Whatever presence is plaguing the family doesn’t like being watched and so the haunting increases in intensity, but is it an actual supernatural phenomenon or is it something more earthly?
The idea is hardly original but what most found footage movies forget is that they have so much potential to build tension with static cameras seemingly filming nothing and they almost rarely have likeable characters. Apartment 143 has both of these elements, some shots are almost unbearable in terms of how long you are watching nothing on the screen but you know something is going to show itself and you find yourself slowly turning away from the screen because you know that something is going to jump out and scare you. There is also a scene involving a strobe camera in the living room which is one of the most tense scenes you will see this year.
The film is also well cast with well-drawn characters and the credit for this must go to Buried director Rodrigo Cortes who wrote the film. At the start you are launched straight into things and wonder where the introduction and character development has gone but this unfolds as the story goes on. Rick Gonzalez and Fiona Glascott are both likeable as the young researchers and technical specialists although Glascott’s accent is puzzling. Michael O’Keefe does well as Dr Helzer who has to explain lots of psychological things and does a bang up job. It’s Kai Lennox who impresses most as the father Alan White though, clearly a man on his last nerve and who hasn’t slept in days he has a heart-breaking scene near the climax where he just breaks down which is haunting and affecting and adds weight to the events on-screen.
Cortes’ screenplay may involve a team of ghost-busters but feels like the most authentic portrayal of people who work in this field for some time. The ‘experts’ here are looking for earthbound explanations all the time as opposed to something from beyond. Every time ‘possession’ or ‘poltergeist’ is mentioned Dr Helzer explains it away with something human and psychological which is a refreshing approach. Added to this their equipment and techno-babble feels real and based on something that exists in the real world. When the possession scenes occur they consist of a set of contact lenses and a voice change and bypass the usual CG elements in bigger budget films, as a result they are more unsettling and effective than anything seen in horror recently.
Apartment 143 is that rarest of things, a good found footage film and a good straight to DVD horror film and is well worth your time.