Title: Apartment 143
Director: Carles Torrens (‘Coming to Town,’ ‘Frank’s First Love’)
Starring: Kai Lennox (‘Beginners,’ ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’), Gia Mantegna (’13 Going on 30,’ TV’s ‘Gigantic’) and Michael O’Keefe (‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Michael Clayton’)
Independent, low-budget horror films can sometimes suffer from the strain of not having enough money to include the stunts needed to create a truly frightening story. But much like ‘Paranormal Activity’ proved, these films can still effectively feature horrifying stories and scares to frighten audiences. The new movie ‘Apartment 143’ is one such low-budget paranormal horror film that uses clever camera tricks and a detailed backstory to shock viewers.
‘Apartment 143’ follows a team of parapsychologists, including Dr. Helzer (played by Michael O’Keefe) Ellen Keegan (portrayed by Fiona glascott) and Paul Ortega (portrayed by Rick Gonzalez), who begin investigating a series of anomalous phenomena in a newly occupied apartment. As the team begins interviewing and recording the tenants, including Alan White (played by Kai Lennox) and his children, Caitlin (portrayed by Gia Mantegna) and Benny (played by Damian Roman), the unexplained phenomena intensifies; the phone rings but no one’s on the other end, objects begin flying and there are extraordinary light emissions.
Using state-of-the-art technology, including infra-red filming an magnetic field alteration meters, the team tries to find the reasoning behind the unexplained phenomena. Meanwhile, the White family, particularly Alan and Caitlin, have a tumultuous relationship, which the parapsychologists believe may be a contributing factor in the unusual happenings in the apartment.
Screenwriter Rodrigo Cortes infused ‘Apartment 143’ with intriguing research about the supernatural, as the idea for the story came after the research he did for the paranormal thriller he penned and directed, ‘Red Lights.’ ‘Apartment 143’ doesn’t just scare with the typical moving object special effects seen in many supernatural films; there’s also an emotional and traumatic backstory the White family experienced before Alan’s wife died. The debate over the cause of her death genuinely explained the tension between the family, and why they were susceptible to the dangers of the paranormal.
While ‘Apartment 143’s director, Carles Torrens, decided to shoot the movie in the found footage horror sub-genre that has become popular, and at times overused, in recent years, the technique ultimately helped the film. The script, which was written even before the popular ‘Paranormal Activity’ series was released, called for several different kinds of video cameras, including high definition video and security cameras. Utilizing the different cameras effectively showcased the different environments and feelings in every scene.
Despite the creative uses of the different cameras, there were several scenes that unfortunately turned out dark and hard to see. While the blurred sequences are understandable, particularly during the sequences of supernatural activity, it unfortunately took away from the effectiveness of the film. The most intriguing aspects of ‘Apartment 143’ are when Alan becomes desperate and emotional to protect his family from harm, but the risky and hasty decisions he makes aren’t always clearly established.
Despite Alan’s understandable emotional deterioration throughout the course of ‘Apartment 143,’ due to his inability to save his children, Dr. Helzer at times seems as though he isn’t willing to help the White family. Over the course of the film, O’Keefe increasingly portrayed the character as being dismissive to Alan’s pain, making it questionable why he was working as a parapsychologist in the first place. The doctor, who initially appeared willing to help the White family, inexplicably changed his attitude towards the investigation without any clear explanation as for why.
‘Apartment 143’ successfully took creative risks for a low-budget found-footage horror film, with the special effects and camera tricks it cleverly pulled off. The film surely holds some comparisons to the ‘Paranormal Activity’ series. However, Cortes created unique characters for ‘Apartment 143’ before the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ was even released, showing the numerous imaginative situations that can be produced in the genre.
Written by: Karen Benardello