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  Publicity Stills of "The Haunted Apartments"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Akio Yoshida
Starring: Mei Kurokawa, Mitsuru Fukikoshi
RunTime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: Festive Films & GV
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 21 September 2006

Synopsis :

Aimi and her father move into an old, apartment building and learn quickly that things are not normal here. The landlord warns them of the rules. Those brave enough to break the rules are unmercifully killed or tortured by mysterious undead spirits. Aimi begins to see visions of a girl that residents say doesn't exist. She learns of a girl named Ai who lived here 30 years ago before she vanished one day on her way home from school. As Aimi is driven to find out more, she learns that Ai wasn't abducted, but in fact came back to the building the day she disappeared. Can Aimi learn the horrible truth of what happened to Ai? And what is the dark, disturbing secret that the two girls share?

Movie Review:

You know what you’ll be getting with “The Haunted Apartments”. Poltergeist activities in homes with cameos by longhaired waifs with sinister intentions drifting past the periphery of the eye while disappearing into the walls and reappearing at the nearest reflection on a mirror or window. The ever popular premise of a young protagonist (usually female) with a chequered past, along with a widowed (sometimes divorced) parent who is usually distracted by work obligations, that end up having to face these vengeful spirits against all odds. And that is basically what this film is all about.

A young high school student, Aimi (Mei Kurokawa) and her writer father (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) move to an old apartment complex where they find that they have become practically enslaved to the spirits that preside over its tenants because of rules that cannot be broken. Sounds familiar? These hallowed rules also played a large part in the recently released “Forbidden Siren” along with the same sorts of characters as well but without the mythos that “Forbidden Siren” offered along the lines of its forerunning videogame.

But to give credit where it’s due, the film infuses bouts of humour in its usually stringent genre and run-of-the-mill set-ups. Striking the right poise between comedy and terror would be task for any script to handle but with its keen eye for the supporting characters, it actually comes quite close in many instances but is still prone to the clanging, self-important harangues by individual performers. These characters are also let down by a paper-thin storyline that is barely held together by the strands of ghostly girl hair.

Part of the popular “Tales of Terror” television anthology series in Japan, “The Haunted Apartments” is its first feature-length incarnation. It might possibly explain the harried and extremely dated plot and the uninspired art direction by the largely television oriented director in Akio Yoshida. It uses rudimentary techniques, and in its case a lackadaisical awareness to cliché-ridden angles and dialogue. These techniques when used well can be unsettlingly effective for these sorts of static films that depend largely on shadows, lighting and sound. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite seem like the extra mile was taken to build the sort of atmospheric quality that eludes many ambitious, like-minded films.

A very shoddy plot papers over the holes that don’t explicate or leave any credible insinuations about the goings on. There’s an uninteresting mystery that holds together the film and the tenants with Aimi right in the middle of it all. A palpable and unfortunately underused sense of camaraderie is wrought among the abused tenants, kind of like the characters in “Lady in the Water”. It’s no wonder that the performances are mostly decent when they play off each other, with a slight comedic tinge rather when the film starts to take itself seriously in between revelations. If the cards were played right, this could have been an effective satire against the middling horror films that Japan have made into unfortunately viable product imports. But alas, it just merely became one of them.

Movie Rating:

(Enough with the droopy eyed, longhaired ghost girls already!)

Review by Justin Deimen

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