This is yet another movie in which a young woman moves into a suspiciously cheap apartment and is immediately beset by supernatural forces: the problem isn't that it's is a fair-to-middling chiller at best, but that we’ve seen this sort of thing so many times before. It’s yet another telling of a very familiar story - and not just because it's a remake of a perfectly acceptable Japanese horror film (directed by Ataru Oikawa in 2007). Stir in all the other J-Horror productions like Hideo Nakata's Dark Water (and its English language remake) or straight originals like the recent The Echo, and ultimately it's the familiarity of the material that works against the film more than the occasionally dodgy dialogue or the characters' frequently irrational behaviour.
At 24, Janet Slate (Julianne Michelle) is so desperate to get away from her domineering, drunken former rock star mother (Rebecca De Mornay) that she signs up to the first available apartment: it’s close to her work, with terrific views and at very reasonable rates. But unbeknownst to Janet, Apartment 1303 has a gruesome history as the last four tenants all committed suicide within a few days of moving in, and it’s not long before she is violently attacked by an unseen presence. Following Janet's apparent suicide, her sister Lara (Mischa Barton) moves in and, with the aid of Janet's cop boyfriend, tries to uncover the truth. But whatever it is that's still living there won't allow anyone to stay...
The Asian horror technique of finding chilling horror in the mundane and ordinary that we're all familiar with in our daily domestic lives (be it a mysterious videotape, a missed cellphone call or an odd photograph) is more effective in creating honest scares than Hollywood's more splattery fixations on axe murderers, vampires and the walking dead. We've all heard strange noises in the flat in the middle of the night, but few if any of us have been chased round the place by flesh-eating ghouls and/or serial killers. But the film still isn't anywhere near as look-away scary as it needs to be, and one of the big jump moments where the ghost is outside and then suddenly inside (a trick pulled off beautifully by Insidious) has no impact at all.
More mysterious than anything in the film, however, is why on Earth it was shot in 3D. As with so many other 3D movies, there's not a single shot that cries out for that extra dimension effect, and with no theatrical release in the offing the only way you can see the 3D version is on the 3D BluRay - if you happen to have a 3D-compatible television, which most people don't as yet. Still, if you can forgive the sometimes awful dialogue and the last half of the film, in which increasingly illogical things happen (the climactic revelation concerning the building’s creepy super and the equally creepy schoolgirl down the hall makes absolutely no sense), there are a few effective moments to be had, and it doesn't waste any time, being over in a slim 83 minutes including credits. A few nice moments don't cut it, however, for a horror film and it doesn't even match up to the (scarcely a classic) original. Not awful, but really not good enough.