Let’s clear one thing up before we start, The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 is billed as being “From the director of New York Ninja”. But it’s directed not by John Liu who actually shot the footage. Instead, it’s the work of Kurtis Spieler (The Devil’s Well, Sheep Skin), the man who oversaw the dubbing and assembled Liu’s footage into an actual film. So if you’re watching and expecting that film’s epic lunacy, you may be disappointed.
The film opens in an NYC police station with Christian (Bryan Manley Davis, Paranormal Proof, Murder Manual) being interrogated about the events that led to three dead bodies being found in an apartment and the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Laura (Laura Dooling, Mr. Mercedes, Loons). He prefaces his story with “Do you believe in ghosts?” as the scene shifts to several hours earlier in Apartment 03.
Laura has just moved to New York City and, as if that isn’t stressful enough, just found her roommate Elizabeth (Jennie Osterman in some scenes, Jasmine Peck in others) dead with a terrified expression on her face. The investigating officers, Miller (Frank Wihbey, The Sadist) and Richards (Adrienne King, Friday the 13th, Killer Therapy) can’t find anything to suggest anything except natural causes. Miller gives Laura his card just in case. Not knowing anyone in the city she can stay with, and with no money for a hotel room, Laura is forced to spend the night in the apartment. And she soon suspects that she’s not alone.
Much like a found footage film, The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 puts itself at a disadvantage by giving the ending away in the opening minutes. The fact that it’s also a slow-burning film that relies more on suspense than effects and jump scares may also be a problem for some viewers.
Writer/director Spieler does get The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 off to a very slow start with extraneous scenes between the two detectives, phone calls between Laura and her mother and Christian, etc. But nothing spooky until the half-hour mark. Finally, around the fifty-minute mark, after a visit from Derrick (Michael Schantz, Thorp, Interference), the dead girl’s boyfriend, things start to get interesting.
What makes the fifty minutes of drama that precedes The Dead Girl in Apartment 03’s twenty minutes of ghost story is the performance by Laura Dooling as Laura. Much of the time that she’s onscreen she’s either alone or just has a voice on the phone to work with. Despite this she remains solid and believable, keeping the viewer interested in her story. Ironically, it’s only after the inevitable power failure that her performance starts to slip as she goes a bit over the top with the hysterics.
Davis is also good as her ex who still cares for her even after being dumped and Schantz provides a creepy presence and obviously knows more than he’s telling. King and Wihbey do the best they can with what are fairly limited roles.
The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 does manage to pull out a few surprises in the final act that make the film more interesting than I expected. But the ending’s lack of answers and an utterly predictable final shot negate some of that.
The film ends up being more interesting than frightening and wastes a fair amount of potential and a talented cast. Spieler needed to integrate the more overtly frightening material into the mix sooner, and have come up with an ending that’s more satisfying. Also, by invoking New York Ninja, the distributor Wild Eye Releasing sets the viewer up for serious disappointment as The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 is a much different film in both content and tone. It’s still worth a watch, but be aware of what you’re getting.
The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 premieres on August 9th on Digital platforms and on special edition Blu-ray and DVD on November 22nd from Wild Eye Releasing. And if you’re looking for more films like this, FilmTagger has a few suggestions for you.