The hauntings occur in the apartment occupied by Alan White (Kai Lennox, Beginners), a widower whose wife recently died in a car crash, leaving him with their curious young boy (newcomer Damian Roman) and resentful teenage girl (22-year-old Gia Mantegna, daughter of Joe). Tired of the unexplained occurrences, Mr. White has hired a two-man/one-woman team of parapsychologists (headed by Caddyshack's Michael O'Keefe, unrecognizable) to set up camera equipment and whatnot in hopes of finding the source.
It starts with a ringing phone and doorbell, and other noises, all accompanied by a temperature drop of 10 degrees. Then it escalates to moving objects, from a creaking door to a teapot, not so short and stout. And then to the kind of things that you watch these movies for, and which I won't spoil (although the Blu-ray cover and menu kind of do, and the special features absolutely do).
I give director Carles Torrens and screenwriter Rodrigo Cortés (who helmed Buried) credit for approaching Apartment 143 differently than most found-footage flicks: The camera doesn't shake you into nausea; the scares aren't blink-and-miss-it; and he injects some Insidious-esque elements into the story. For two-thirds of the 80-minute running time, it works; the other can't escape the muck that mires so many of these movies: dialogue intended to pad, but not to bore.
Neither Lennox nor O'Keefe are natural enough to pull off the film's illusion. The women are better; while too old to be playing a teen, Mantegna has the snottier-than-thou 'tude down pat, and the UK team member portrayed by Fiona Glascott (TV's Episodes) is the most grounded of the cast.
The awkward subtitle of [Emergo] is Apartment's alternate title in Spain, and not the old-school gimmick of that great horror huckster William Castle. One could argue to affix the label on the final shot — one Castle would've dug, judging from viewers' likely reactions to it. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Beginners film review
• Buried Blu-ray review
• Episodes: The First Season DVD review
• Insidious film review
• Paranormal Activity 2 DVD review