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[movie 2006] A.P.T. aka Apartment 아파트

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October 15, 2006

A.P.T. (아파트) Review

apttrail.jpg

Over the course of his previous two films, Phone and Bunshinsaba, Korean horror-meister Ahn Byung-Gi has demonstrated himself to be more a technician than a story teller. His primary interest seems to be less in originality or depth of character than in simply making his audience jump. As a result his films have generated a great deal of deserved criticism for being highly derivative of earlier pictures and that is certainly the case with A.P.T.

Based on a popular online comic noted for its sense of humor as much as its horror, not to mention an extensive cast of well developed characters, in Ahn's hands the material is stripped of its depth and any comic value and essentially reduced down to an all-purpose Asian horror crib sheet. Yes, there are individual sequences which work quite well but virtually all are lifted directly and obviously from other, largely superior, films. Tired of the long haired female ghost thing? You'll want to stay away as this plays every cliche you can think of while adding nothing new to the formula.

Go So-Young stars as Oh Sae-Jin, a solitary career minded woman with no friends or family to speak of. When a confrontation at work and a subway suicide incident combine to keep her at home for an extended stretch of time Oh takes note of a troubling pattern in the apartment building across the way. Seemingly every night at precisely 9:56 the building's lights flicker and go out, and while the lights are out someone mysteriously and without apparent motive commits suicide. What strange force is at work here?

While Ahn does show a degree of creativity in some sequences - the mirror tunnel shot is quite nice while the first death is positively grotesque - and is certainly competent technically there is just far too much in A.P.T. that is far too familiar. Even a casual fan of Japanese horror - even a fan who has only seen the American versions of The Ring and The Grudge, even - will immediately recognize that Ahn is offering up nothing more than a low rent take on Sadako or Kayako with the basic movements, sound effects and shooting angles cribbed directly from both though Ahn is not nearly as proficient at manipulating mood and tension as are either Hideo Nakata or Takashi Shimizu. While knowing what's coming is actually a major part of the appeal of the Ju-On / Grudge films thanks to Shimizu's remarkable ability to tease and exceed your expectations with Ahn it is difficult to muster much of a response at all.

Predicatability of this sort would be a fault no matter what but it is further compounded here by Ahn's general disregard for character. If we cared about Oh, the wheelchair bound woman she befriends, the high school girl in the haunted building or the police inspector investigating the crimes, the tension level would automatically be raised considerably simply because we didn't want to see bad things happen to these people - this sort of empathy is precisely what makes Ringu tick as you share the emotions of a single mother frantic to save the life of her young son - but the writing unfortunately leaves each of these characters flat and unconvincing and none of the major performances are strong enough to rise above the mediocre script.

Combine over familiarity with characters you don't much care about and what you're left with is A.P.T.: a film that stands as a very minor title in what has become an over-crowded field, a film whose legitimately strong set pieces are undercut by weaknesses in other areas.

The new Korean DVD release is similarly passable but unremarkable. The transfer is anamorphic and in the proper aspect ratio but notably soft and marked by a few flecks and spots of dirt on occassion. Sound comes in 5.1 and DTS options with English subtitles that are servicable despite some obvious grammar issues from time to time. Like the film itself the presentation is not bad enough to hate but not good enough to love either.

http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/007867.html

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This movie was really freaky and similar to The Grudge. I hated how the ghost makes noises *twitching* when she walks. That scared me off. :crazy: There should be more horror movies like this.

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