"Apartment 1303" Asian Horror Worthy of an American Re-make?


Starting about ten years ago an explosion of Asian horror movies made their way to the United States and many have been remade.  "The Ring" and "The Grudge" being the most popular of the dozen or so remakes.  The Japanese movie "Apartment 1303" was released in 2007 and is now being remade with Mischa Barton starring.  The remake has yet to be released and like most movies, these days is in 3D.

The original "Apartment 1303" is quite similar in theme to "The Grudge" in that it revolves around the spirits of a mother and daughter that years back were involved in a murder-suicide.  The apartment is now cursed and infects all of the future female tenants.  Asian horror films almost always involve some sort of ghost story or restless spirit that wreaks havoc on the living from beyond the grave

Sayaka is a young woman who gets a deal on her first apartment.  So she throws a party to celebrate.  She then unexpectedly jumps off the balcony to her death in front of everybody.  Her sister Mariko is convinced that it wasn't a suicide and starts her own investigation.  The girls' mother is so grief-stricken that her favorite daughter has died she spirals into madness.  Like a lot of J-Horror films, "Apartment 1303" relies a lot of atmosphere, suspense, and creepiness.  Mariko finds out that her sister is the fifth young woman to have jumped of the balcony and starts to see the ghosts of the mother and daughter who haunt the place.

The backstory and origins of the curse are revealed and all of the horrible things that have happened there.  The story is heavily structured and planned out, but is quite an enjoyable watch for the casual horror fan.  This movie is apart of the Tartan Asian Extreme DVD series.  Add it to your Netflix queue today.

"Tomboy" A Uniquely Real Achievement


There have been countless coming of age movies made in countless different ways and approaches, but "Tomboy" is quite the unique achievement.  Directed by Celine Sciamma of the previously reviewed "Water Lilies", "Tomboy" is a heartfelt look at a 10-year-old girl's summer as a boy.

Laure is at that stage in her life where she looks rather androgynous, her hair is short, she wears gender neutral clothes and is trying to figure out who she is.  She and her family have just moved to a new town and she is searching for a place to belong.  She meets Lisa, a neighbor girl about her age, and after a moment introduces herself as Michael.  Michael then meets up with a group of other neighborhood kids who also accept her as a boy. 

Laure's family life is quite loving and supportive.  Her mother is pregnant with her third, while her father holds down a good job.  She is also best friends with her 6-year-old sister.  So why does she feel the need to have people thinks she is a boy?

Michael keeps pushing the boundaries of how far she can go as a boy and there are a few moments of embarrassment along the way. He/she develops a pretty close relationship with Lisa and you start to wonder if she knows who he/she really is.  Laure's life as a boy is kept a tight secret from her parents, but when her sister finds out, she helps keep the secret and they have a fun time with it.  Michael/Laure is very protective of her little sister so when one of the kids in the group is meant to her, she takes offense and fights the kid, and wins.  This prompts the kid's mother to visit Laure's mother and her secret is spilled.  Determined to set things straight Laure's mother puts a dress on her and brings her to the boy's house and then to Lisa's to show them she who she really is.  The mother is not angry that Laure is acting and dressing like a boy, but that she has been lying to everybody around her about who she really is.  Laure is also, remember, 10 years old and is acting at the moment.  Will she be like this when she is 15? 20? 30?  I would think this is probably just a phase, but the film doesn't give any direct answers.  It's just a short glimpse into the life of a girl and her family.

The realism and acting in this film is nothing short of extraordinary.  It is not overly dramatized and melodramatic, but through that acting, the characters, and the simplistic story there is something to it that makes it feel so authentic.  ZoĆ« Haren is the young actress who plays Laure/Michael and is the driving force behind its success.  "Tomboy" is a good "discussion" movie.  Does it have ulterior motives?  Why does Laure pretend to be a boy? and many other things could be asked of it.  The film has won a few international awards and can currently be seen on several On Demand services.

"The Innkeepers" Deserves a Visit


This is Writer/ Director Ti West's follow up to the 2010 sleeper hit "House of the Devil". His filmmaking style is very apparent in "The Innkeepers".  He is known for his slow burn style of horror that, like a lot of Hitchcock classics, relies on strong characters and story rather than intense blood and gore.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy play Claire and Luke the two employees working the last weekend of the closing Yankee Pedlar Inn.  They are both pretty geeky but real and highly relatable.  They are good friends and just trying to get through the weekend as there are only a few guests.  You really get to know and Claire and Luke and feel that they could be your friends.  So when things start to happen you actually fear for their safety, rather than cheering for their death.

Luke is an amateur paranormal investigator and the Pedlar has long thought to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O'Malley who was murdered there in the early 1900s.  Claire is cute and dorky and at times acts like a ten-year-old which is not annoying but makes her a more sympathetic character.  She also uses an inhaler for her asthma which comes into play a few times.  One of the final guests to arrive is a former television star and current psychic healer Leanne Rease-Jones (played by Kelly McGillis).  Claire is a big fan of hers and connects with her in a number of ways.  The last guest is an old man coming to stay one more night in the honeymoon suite that he and his deceased wife stayed in many years ago.  He is a very creepy and mysterious old man who has bigger plans in store for himself.

The movie is dialogue driven and moves at a pretty slow pace which could irritate some people expecting an action-packed bloodbath.  The movies relies a lot on a suspenseful atmosphere to reach an emotionally rich climax.  There are still a bunch of scares and disturbing images most of which are quite effective and well earned.  The films musical score also really help to build the suspense as well as the camerawork.  But it really comes down to the characters and the acting which is pretty damn good even for a horror movie.  I would suggest buying the DVD or Blu-Ray as it has 2 commentary tracks and other special features.