Wednesday, October 22, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #22: APARTMENT 143 (2011)

The Story: Paranormal investigators set up their equipment in the haunted apartment of a widower and his two children.  Mayhem ensues.

Expectations: I'm always hopeful about paranormal horror movies.   It's a subgenre I know well, and generally like.  Still, I must admit that the more of these I see, the less interested I am.

Reaction: This movie starts the way all found footage horror movies start, by introducing a group of quirky characters who are meant to be our tether to reality as increasingly weird things happen.  Usually the way this works is that the paranormal events start small and slowly escalate over the course of the film.  It's a delicate art -- the subtle, gradual manipulation of an audience's subconscious beliefs.  In this case, however, the "ghost" gets physically violent about twenty minutes into the film.  For me, that was too much too soon.  It kept me from being able to suspend my disbelief for the next hour as the filmmakers struggled to make every paranormal event bigger and badder, using mostly loud noises and a shakey camera. 

For me, the only real tension in the first two thirds of the film came from interpersonal dynamics, specifically the overwhelming hostility between a father and daughter which suggests that something bad has already happened between them.  To be fair, there was also a genuinely suspenseful sequence involving a stroboscopic light.  The third act likewise had a couple of brief scares, but by then the film was routinely going over the top in a way that I found more ridiculous and annoying than scary.  Some viewers will undoubtedly have fun with a balls-to-the-wall variation on PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, but I'm inclined to point those viewers toward GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, a more effective version of the same basic ghost-hunter story.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: As I said, there are a couple of genuinely effective moments... especially the stroboscopic light sequence and the possession sequence involving the male "sensitive." Too bad these scenes weren't in a different movie.

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