In response to a few recent games that appear to be lacking in the criteria. This is a short list and thoughts on some stand out game mechanics that developers seem to be ignoring and need to build upon.
Apartment 1303: Stay Far Away!
Apartment 1303, an American remake of a Japanese horror movie is a non-scary mess of a movie that I watched so you, dear audience, didn’t have to. The best thing about the movie is the poster, which promises all the scariness that the movie doesn’t deliver.
Janet (Julianne Michelle) and Lara (Mischa Barton) are sisters with a common problem: their alcoholic, abusive, one hit wonder mother (Rebecca De Mornay.) Janet takes stronger steps to solve the issue than her sister, as she finds an apartment in downtown Detroit and moves in. In doing so, Janet solves one problem but creates another. A mother and daughter used to live in Janet’s place, and despite the fact that they’re dead, they still consider the apartment their home, and don’t take kindly to intruders.
The haunting antics start minutes after Janet closes the door to her new place. This would be exciting, if the hauntings were something we haven’t seen a hundred times before, but they’re the same old drivel. Weird noises and shadowy ghost figures haunt Janet when she goes to sleep, and she can’t get the door to her balcony to shut. Emily, the strange little girl always playing ball in the hallways at all hours tells Janet to leave, and that all the tenants in 1303 have committed suicide by jumping off the balcony. She decides to ignore her, of course.
Janet has other scary things happening as well. The building super tries to force his way into the apartment her first night there and says they she can ‘make an arrangement’ if for whatever reason she can’t pay the rent. There’s also a scene where a child plays ball in the main room while Janet cowers in her bed and cries. The audience knows Janet should just move out and never look back, lease be damned.
On her second night in the apartment, the ghosts throw Janet around for a while before letting her sink unconscious to the bed. At work the next day, when her boss confronts her about her injuries, Janet makes up a story about falling while moving. Her boss decides that the injury is because Janet’s boyfriend beats her. She gets mad at Janet for supposedly lying and protecting her boyfriend despite Janet’s protests. Said boyfriend, named Mark, finally shows up at the apartment after Janet begs him to come by. After a strange love scene, Mark leaves, stopping at the all night convenience store in the lobby of the apartment before heading outside, just in time for Janet to hit the pavement in front of him.
All this may sound remotely interesting, but the dialogue is awkward at best and the acting is wooden. There are numerous times when the characters decide to meet somewhere, yet the next scene is something completely different and they never converse about a missed meeting.
The best part of this terrible film is watching Rebecca De Mornay play Maddie, the drunk mother angry at her kids for stealing an opportunity for ‘fame’ by the fact of their existence. The only one convinced that she could have “made it” is Maddie, but that doesn’t stop her from abusing her daughters over it. Seeing her in action, you don’t have to wonder why poor Janet chose a haunted apartment filled with terrorizing ghosts over living with her mom.
Lara, wanting to escape her mother too, moves in to Janet’s old apartment, despite the fact that her sister died there. Mark, partially convinced that something killed Janet, decides to stay in the apartment to protect Lara from whatever’s haunting the place. Apartment 1303 is so boring it even skips the obvious love plot of having Mark fall in love with his dead girlfriend’s sister.
The ghosts don’t enjoy Lara and Mark’s company any more than they did Janet’s, so they scare and manipulate in obvious and boring ways until Mark is killed. Then the mom shows up for a heart-to-heart reunion and ends up dead as well. I almost cheered the demise of such a despicable, pathetic character, but by then I really just wanted the movie to be over.
Apartment 1303 is in no way recommendable. It disappoints on all fronts. There’s not even enough of a cheese factor to make the movie worth watching. I’m not sure if the Japanese version is better, as I’ve never seen it.