Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Apartment (aka Apateu or 9:56) (2006)

Apartment (aka Apateu or 9:56) (Review)
Ahn Byeong-ki/Ko So-young/2006
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime 

"...never daring enough to leave the shadow of other iconic Asian horror films."

Oh Se-jin (Ko So-young) is a lonely department store employee who lives in a high-rise apartment. After a series of odd deaths, Se-jin begins to notice the lights of the apartment building across of hers flicker every night at 9:56...

Apartment, known simply as 9:56 in Singapore, and Apateu or APT elsewhere, is a traditional Asian ghost story with a plot centering around themes of Hikikomori and loneliness. The story follows Se-jin as she is drawn to these mysterious deaths and tries to stop them. Basically, Se-jin witnesses a death, tells the tenants of the apartment complex to stop turning off their lights before 10:00, and repeat. It reaches a dark ending that closes some loose ends well; however, there are still many unanswered questions left lingering.

Apartment is ultimately a disappointing film. The story, particularly its themes, give the film plenty of opportunities to differentiate itself. Unfortunately, the film never does so, which leaves you with an eerily familiar film. This becomes a bigger problem during the third act when you realize your predictions were correct and it is just another ghost story. (I'll avoid spoilers, in case you won't be able to predict the ending.) The first and second act feel like they want to be experimental, and they even hit that border quite a few times, but Apartment is never daring enough to leave the shadow of other iconic Asian horror films. I also really didn't like the ending as it was unfulfilling; it didn't answer all of my questions, and it felt like it just didn't care to.

Anyway, Apartment does offer a handful of scares. There is some light suspense, plenty of jump-scares -- of which a few fall flat -- and some creepy visuals. In fact, I really enjoyed some of the spooky visuals, especially when they stood alone (i.e. without a loud noise to accompany it.) It's not terrifying to the point of losing sleep or even getting goosebumps, but it at least feels like a horror film and offers some entertainment through its horror elements.

Ko So-young is great as the lead -- a very believable and realistic performance, without ever being over-the-top or bland -- So-young gets it just right. The rest of cast also deliver great, believable performances. The cinematography and camerawork are great, the film is captured beautifully. The music is well-fitted for the setting and genre, but isn't memorable due to the lack of originality. Director Ahn Byeong-ki is good, but lacks focus and ambition; he can build suspense and deliver some spooky visuals, but there has to be some focus on story.

Overall, Apartment offers little for Asian horror fans -- it's not new, fresh, or creative, and reeks of the "been there, done that" stench. However, there is some great suspense and some spooky visuals, as well as some serious, albeit underused, themes, such as Hikikomori. It is entertaining, but not memorable or petrifying.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, and sexuality (some groping.)

No comments:

Post a Comment