You know how it goes — you hear reasonably decent things about a film for some time, but for whatever reason, you just never get around to watching it. There’s always something else to see, read, or otherwise pay attention to, and something that you know you really should check out just ends up getting buried further and further down in the old baket of priorities.
Such was the case with me and Apartment 143 (or, as it’s known in its native Spain, Emergo), a Barcelona-filmed “found footage” number from 2011 directed by then-first-timer Carles Torrens and written by Buried director Rodrigo Cortes that’s been available on Netflix (as well as Blu-ray and DVD) for some time. Plenty of folks whose opinions I generally respect have had plenty good to say about it, but it never worked its way to the top of my “must-see” list for whatever reason. The other night, though, I decided to quit procrastinating and give it a shot, and ya know what? I’m generally pretty glad that I did.
Fair enough, this tale of recent widower Alan White (played by Kai Lennox) and his kids Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and Benny (Damian Roman) moving into a new spread after being essentially “haunted out” of their old one — only to have the same shit only worse happen to them here — is nothing even remotely “new.” And calling in a paranormal investigation team to check out the things going bump in the night is as predictable as a Perkins breakfast special. But I dunno. Maybe it’s the fact that the head “ghostbuster,” one Dr. Helzer, is played by Micahel O’Keefe of Caddyshack. Maybe it’s the fact that I watched it when I was dead tired and I appreciated the fact that even though it’s a Spanish production, the whole thing was filmed in English so I didn’t have to read subtitles. Maybe it’s the fact that a glaringly obvious rip-off scene from The Exorcist actually plays out more like a respectful homage rather than a tired rehash. Or maybe it’s just the fact that Torrens has accepted that his material has been done to death and is therefore determined do it a notch better than those who have come before him. Whatever the case may be, the simple truth of the matter is that Apartment 143 just plain worked for me even though by all rights it probably shouldn’t have.
I’ll be dead honest with you, though — if you’re completely burned out on “shaky-cam” horror (an opinion I can absolutely respect even if that same level of fatigue has yet to set in with me), then I can’t really offer much of a compelling reason to give this one a shot. Yes, there is an added psychological dimension to the paranormal goings-on here that makes for a more engaging and intelligent viewing experience than we’ve become used to from this by-now-venerable sub-genre, and Cortes’ script deals with themes of grief, loss, and blame in a frank and considered manner, but if you can’t get past the fact that this is all very old hat, none of that is going to matter much to you for any reason.
If, however, you still hold out some hope for the whole “mockumentary” thing, then Apartment 143 will go some way toward reassuring you that all is indeed not lost. The performances are damn good across the board, the tension and suspense are actually quite palpable throughout, the scares are incredibly well-timed, and the atmosphere of dread and unease hanging over things is honestly pretty intense. Of course you’ve seen this all before — so what? The point of this film, it seems to me, is to give you a better-prepared serving of a dish you’ve sampled many times over, and if you catch me in just the right mood — as Torrens and Co. obviously did — I really have no problem with that.
Consider this, then, a ringing — if highly qualified — endorsement : you know exactly what you’re getting into with a movie like Apartment 143, and if you’re still capable of getting something out of that, then I think you’ll find an awful lot to like here.