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Original Title:

South Korea 2006


Ahn Byeong-ki

Ko So-young
Jang Hie-jin
Kang Seong-jin
Park Ha-seon
Yuko Fueki
Lee Ju-seok
Kim Gyu-min

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aka Apartment

Story: Oh Se-jin (Ko So-young) is a lonely business woman, who one day is approached by a woman at a train station. The mysterious woman jumps right in front of a train after talking to Se-jin, trying to drag the business woman with her. Since that day Se-jin is haunted by the ghost of a woman. But something even more eerie happens. Oh watches how the lights at the building right across the street of her apartment flicker exactly at 21:56 o'clock day by day. Shortly therafter a suicide takes place. Se-jin doesn't go to work anymore and instead observes her neighbors. As she is always found near the victims the police soon takes her into custody as a suspect. The detective investigating the multiple suicide case, Yang (Kang Seong-jin), doesn't believe any word of Se-jin's story, but has to release her, eventually.
While Se-jin tries to solve the mystery of the strange incidents taking place at the apartment building across the street, she becomes friends with Yoo-yeon (Jang Hie-jin), a girl bound to a wheelchair. It seems that all victims had some kind of relationship to her. Furthermore, Se-jin also witnesses how Yoo-yeon is maltreated by her nursers. Is somebody taking revenge for the girl in the wheelchair, or is all of this actually the doing of a ghost haunting the apartment building?

Review: If you are looking for a horror film, which finally brings a little alternation to your Asian horror treat, then you should absolutely avoid "APT". A few years ago, director Ahn Byeong-ki gave us a nice horror flick with "Phone", a movie that could actually make us jump off our seat every now and then. Nowadays, however, after the felt hundredthousandth adaption of the ghost with long black hair, that wants to take revenge until someone solves the mystery of its death, the genre seems, no, it actually IS, exploited to no further avail. "APT" isn't original at any point and really doesn't come up with anything new. The only interesting thing might be that a bit of Hitchcock's "Rear Window" found its way into the horror plot. But even here the director could have made better use of the material given.

The problems already start with the individuals. Se-jin is a shallow character we only learn little about, and who merely serves her role in this film to unravel the mystery of a creepy ghost haunting an entire apartment complex. We aren't allowed a glimpse into her mind, and only know that she, for whatever reasons, is lonely and can't stand to be hurt again. Hwever, what exactly happened in her past that made her this person, remains a question never answered. Thus, she is nothing but a cogwheel in the story, that keeps things going, but by herself is just a one-dimensional and uninteresting character.
The same goes for characters like detective Yang, who takes on the typical role of the male supporting actor in a horror flick, meaning that he is merely supporting our heroine in finding answers at certain key points in the story. Actually, Yang seems a bit more interesting than the rest, but he is never granted the time on screen he would require to unfold his personality. Therefore, he remains a blank sheet, too. Yu-yeon on the other side, is the only one who got her own background story, which makes her the most fleshed-out character in the movie.

The protagonists in an Asian horror film aren't really important and can be replaced with anyone. Which unfortunately is also the case in "APT". Such movies simply rely on a tense and thrilling atmosphere. Director Ahn Byeong-ki doesn't fully succeed in creating such an atmosphere, yet proves that he has gained enough experience in this genre over the years, that even a bad movie of his doesn't lack some style. The sometimes cold color palette of the pictures, as well as some camera angles, when it comes to the depiction of the ghost, are routinely well done, even though they might not be inventive in any way. To use jump cuts to make the staccato-like movements of a ghost look more creepy, can't excite any experienced horror movie fan. Depicting a rolling and twisted eye behind a curtain of black hair can't make any viewer freak out anymore, either.
"APT" just can't scare or shock any viewer, who doesn't happen to come across "APT" as his/her first Asian horror movie. The film is just too genre-typical. And a sudden burst of music volume or a face that pops up next to the protagonist really isn't anything that will make you jump off your seat, these days.

What's really annoying, however, are some very stupid scenes. For what reason does Se-jin use the elevator in a haunted apartment building at 21:56 o'clock, when she just informed the residents of the building and the police, that the light is flickering at this very time? And then she is actually shocked to see herself get stuck in the elevator?!
Apart from that, the story around the ghost of the underground station, which haunts Se-jin, stands in no relation to the rest of the story. Moreover, characters like the schoolgirl, who makes friends with Se-jin, just seem to be added to the script, because she is supposed to inform Se-jin at a certain point about an important internet article, that serves us as the "big twist".
Furthermore, I was always afraid every time the ghost of the black-haired girl appeared. No, not because she's so damn scary, but because the filmmakers underlayed the stiff movements of her with the sound of teeth grinding! Stuff like this causes inner pain in me... That's even worse than the sound of finger nails scratching over a blackboard. I really wanted to jump into my TV and beat the living hell out of the ghost, every time I heard that sound. Still, somehow I don't think that this is actually the emotion the director wanted to trigger in his viewers...

Despite its slow pacing "APT" never becomes boring. The movie's mood is quite nice and some minor twists may be somewhat entertaining and rewarding. However, all in all the film proves to be too uninventive and doesn't serve us with anything new. Some very stupid mistakes in the script, of which I only pointed out few, and the not quite comprehensible ending, which just has to throw a final shock moment in the sense of "it's still not over, yet" at us, make the few positive sides of the film look very thin.
"APT" isn't really an incredibly bad movie, but there is no reason I can give you why you should prefer this one over any other Asian horror flick of your random choice. Mediocre horror stuff, that may be appealing to fans of the genre, but anyone who hopes to finally see something new in a horror movie, should avoid this one.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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