Forgettable Haunted House Horrors
by Kristin Battestella
I do so hate being mean, but sometimes there are just poor horror movies, and these recent spooky dorms, haunted game show contestants, and ghostly rentals are best left in the bargain bin.
Apartment 1303 – Two and a half minutes of loud, padding opening credits don't help this muddled 2013 remake starring estranged singer Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business), miscast snarky daughter Mischa Barton (The O.C.) and foolish youngest Julianne Michelle (looking like a sickly thin fourteen year old) who signs a cheap lease on the titular flat complete with a view, creepy kids, a pervy super, and ghostly residue. The mother/daughter arguing plot feels like a dramatic movie separate from the horror, but De Mornay's husky singing is more interesting than the cliché girl alone taking selfies and talking to herself over ironing board jump scares. It's tough to care about this drinking, quivering kid. What did she expect? Rattling doors, phantom shadows, spooky sounds, foggy attacks, and scary faces tapping at the window do better than the ugly crying shouts, cheating boyfriend, the black best friend in only one scene, divorced dad cop subplots, and one uncomfortable sex scene. The ghost girl looks like a man, the bathroom scenes are laughable – those fake bubbles in Mischa's tub! – and the screaming ghost roars are useless. The spectre and its special effects are barely there but this ghost can physically do a lot – like dragging the stick chick all across the floor. An unexpected turn halfway through makes viewers wonder why one plot wasn't just told in its entirety as a short opening prologue before the family pieces. However, the sisters really are interchangeable, and I would rather have seen their broken down mom moving into the haunt to do some comeback songwriting and solve the scares. Phantom phone calls, bizarre dreams, investigation of past deaths, even calling the police for the deadly facts come too late, and the paranormal really happens most in last ten minutes with no resolution and four more minutes of credits. Eighty-five minutes my foot! There's no time to waste, yet this does everything but focus on the horror – and its ten years behind on the blonde moves to a creepy place with a kid trend. While serviceable for those who can laugh at this kind of babe alone boo fest, I suspect the J-horror original is better.
Evidence of a Haunting – This eighty minutes from 2010 claims to be footage from a real paranormal society. However, some scenes are shot like found footage investigation cams while others are dramatically styled as in a scripted paranormal reality show. There's edgy music scoring amid the raw investigative footage, too, hmm. The acting is poor and there's no natural flow – booms, slamming doors, and Paranormal Activity knockoffs can't save a stilted script. Despite onscreen camera labels and character names or team member titles, too many cliches are thrown in the pot from demons, ghosts, and mediums to a priest and a possessed kid saying nasty sex stuff. Dark photography with flashlight spotlights don't help the amateur exorcisms, and the struggle filming looks like a college extra credit video. The first fifteen minutes here feel so long and agonizing – but that isn't even the main case and more investigations and flashbacks of the team's childhood paranormal experiences are tossed in for good measure. Good thing somebody was able to find that inexplicable footage out of the past! I honestly hate being mean, but I couldn't finish this.
7 Nights of Darkness – If House on Haunted Hill had been a reality show and we found the tape, I hope it wouldn't be like this 2010 ninety minutes where contestants are supposed to stay in a Big Brother style asylum for the prize money. Of course, none of them has yet to claim the prize, dun dun dun. While the filming is home movie simplistic, the supposedly abandoned asylum is ironically so white, bright, shiny, and new! Did they shoot everything on campus one weekend in the dorm? All the spliced OMG fake scares, screaming girls, cursing men, spinning cameras, and flashlights failing should have been a half hour at best. Most of the time is spent arguing in unable to see nightvision darkness, and the shouting over the worms on the pizza, seriously? They couldn't make it through, and neither could I.