A recent study found that two out of three horror fans are tired of found footage movies. That study was just conducted by me, in my head, as I realized I don’t talk with many people who get excited about the found footage format anymore. Obviously a very scientific study. In general terms, though, the sub-genre is in a precarious position right now. It could either advance from its recent baby steps into a legitimate story telling method, or it could just as easily slip into oblivion. Unfortunately, Apartment 143, the latest from director Carles Torrens and writer Rodrigo Cortes, is mostly one giant baby step that leads to a stumbling movie that never regains any solid footing.
Apartment 143 begins quickly, rushing through the set-up and plot details within the first five to ten minutes. After that, it’s a rapid tour through every paranormal stereotype we have seen as an audience in the last five years. The plot, explained quickly by the “tech guy” Paul Ortega(Rick Gonzalez), is that he and a group of seasoned paranormal investigators are planning to investigate a force that is haunting a family of three. The haunting has followed the family from their original house to their new residence, apartment 143. That’s all you need to know and that’s all the movie provides. The rest is a grocery list of creepy ghost things that happen when you’re in a haunted house.
The result of that rapid plot development is mostly confusion. Not confusion towards the story, the plot is always clear. The confusion is towards who each character really is and why they are present. In both groups, the family and the investigators, we never get a feel of how any character fits into the dynamic of their said group. Instead we get “tech guy”, “hormonal teenage girl”, and “wizened leader”. We never understand why or how they are filling these roles. They just do so because the story demands it. This portrayal combined with the quick succession of paranormal occurrences leads to a fragmented, distant movie that never really pauses to engage the audience.
According to the director, Carles Torrens, the rapid, emotionless storytelling was intentional. His intention was to create a document, something that would be presented in a courtroom setting; all excess cut out in service to the evidence. That sounds great in theory, to create a movie so realistic that it could be confused as courtroom evidence. The trouble, though, is one of the things that is cut out of evidential footage is tension and human drama. Part of what fuels fear in horror movies is the threat of what could be lost. In Apartment 143, it is never really elicit what could be lost because we are never allowed to form any relationships with the characters on screen
There are some interesting paranormal sequences in Apartment 143, some of them may even manage to provide some jump scares. The problem is that those scares slip by as quickly as the rest of the movie. The audience is never left to stew in the atmosphere, an atmosphere that should be dark menacing. What flashes on the screen instead is a fast paced horror attraction that may make you jump once or twice, but never manages to truly frighten. If this movie were a haunted house attraction I’d recommend it in a second, being sure to mention that you should check out the funnel cake stand after you’re done. As it stands, though, the movie feels more like an exercise in creepy than a cohesive film. And there’s no funnel cake afterwards.