Apartment 143 (2011): Legend of Hell House in Shorthand

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The White family live in a haunted apartment, but that’s nothing new to them, the last house they lived in was haunted as well. Convinced that the vengeful ghost of his dead wife has followed him and their two children to their new home, papa White asks a paranormal team of investigators to find out what’s happening.

This is a Spanish film, written by Rodrigo Cortés (Red Lights 2012) and directed by Carles Torrens as his first feature-length film. The cast is a real amalgamation of actors.

Michael O”Keefe plays Dr Helzer and I spent the entire film wondering why he looked so damned familiar. It was not until setting down and researching this film that I found out t he was the young caddy in the 1980 film Caddyshack. He’s put on a bit of weight since then and aged, of course, but once you see his publicity photo, you realise who he is.

One of Dr Helzer’s assistants is Ellen Keegan. She is played by  Fiona Glascott, a more than capable actress who’s been treading the boards for some time now. She made me think of a young Catherine Deneuve and I found it hard to take my eyes off of her in any scene she appeared. I think it’s safe to say that I was “crushing” on her a bit. But Deneuve reference aside, she’s a good actress.

Fiona Glasscott, lovely to look at, delightful to watch act.
Fiona Glasscott, lovely to look at, delightful to watch act.

Rick Gonzalez does a more than capable job as Helzer’s other assistant  Paul Ortega, the techie of the group and he comes across as quite likeable.

The White family consists of dad Alan (Kai Lennox), daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and son Benny (Damian Roman). The only problem I had with the Whites was that I did not like any of them except for Benny. Damian Roman is brilliant as the four year-old youngest member of the family. I enjoyed it when he was in scenes. Dad and sis Caitlin, turned me cold and it was made very obvious that the daughter was the “trigger” that set these hauntings off.

I was impressed with the way Torrens set the technical side of this film up. It could have been an episode from the Sy Fy channels TAPS Ghost Hunters. The matter-of-fact way that the equipment was handled and the explanations could have come from Jason Hawes or Grant Wilson.

Unfortunately, for me, I felt that the plot and the mechanisation of the film very closely resembled the atmosphere of the 1973 film The Legend of Hell House (Roddy McDowell and Gayle Hunnicutt) especially after the inclusion of the “machine” that supposedly “cleaned” the house of spirits.

Of course it doesn’t have the convoluted back story that Hell House had, but it’s damned close; if not in nature at least in the area of being convoluted. Over all the film impressed but, at the same time, it underwhelmed in some areas. A lot of the stunts were brilliantly pulled off and some of the “filmed” ghostly effects, again, looked like they could have originated from the Ghost Hunters televised footage.

Michael O'Keefe as the humourless Dr Barrett.
Michael O’Keefe as the humourless Dr Barrett.

In keeping with the focus on “real” ghost hunters and a sort of tenuous LOHH connection,  even Dr Helzer seemed like he could be a close relative of the humourless scientist Dr Barrett (Clive Revill) in the Hell House movie. Which reminds me of another “nod” in the film, doesn’t the name Helzer evoke images of Hans Holzer, paranormal investigator extraordinaire?

All in all the film was good, but not overly scary. It has few “jump” moments and a “surprising” twist in the plot and then falls on a “cheap” scare at the very end of the film. I don’t count that as a spoiler as you are (as the viewer) expecting it.

So I’d have to give Apartment 143 a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It gets the .5 because of Michael O’Keefe, Catherine Deneuve look-a-like Fiona Glasscott and little Damien Roman.

Hans Holzer, a real life paranormal investigator. (1920 - 2009)
Hans Holzer, a real life paranormal investigator. (1920 – 2009)

 

Ghost Hunting for Beginners by Rich Newman: Things to Help You Find Boo…

If you look at the list of books I am reading on Goodreads right now, you will no doubt notice that they are all a bit “ghost heavy.” I guess there is something about this time of year (near Christmas) that brings out the urge for ghosts. Call it the Scrooge complex if you will, Dickens certainly grabbed my imagination with his three ghoulish messengers to the old tight-wad on Christmas Eve.

I say later in this post that I picked the book up on a “whim” but that doesn’t explain why I picked up a further three books about ghosts.So I will definitely lay the blame on Dickens and Scrooge and just maybe the Muppets. Still this isn’t about me, it’s about the book. So friends and neighbours read on if you want to or stop now and make some eggnog.

Published in 2011 and written by Rich Newman (who is the founder of the group Paranormal Inc) this little book – 218 pages – really does contain “everything you need to know to get started.” If you ever felt the urge to investigate the supernatural like Scy Fy’s TAPs or the Ghost Busters, here is your chance.

Newman, who obviously loves his work, has set out an almost “See Spot Run” guide to unveiling the things that go bump in the night. The eight chapters of the book deal with different aspects of investigating the paranormal.

From defining a ghost to setting up your own paranormal group, Newman tries to cover it all. He also throws in the odd case note or two; some are his own cases and others are more of a historical nature (Borley Rectory for instance).

This is not just a collection of anecdotal stories of how Newman and Paranormal Inc have solved cases dealing with haunting and the supernatural, he really does keep the ghost stories to a minimum. He does list the types of equipment that you need, what each piece of equipment does and how you use them.

He also gives tips on how to act with the owners of the property you want to investigate and how not to insult the recipients of a haunting.

This really is a practical handbook for the ghost enthusiast. The equipment that Newman references ranges from the affordable (for the beginner who has a small budget) to the massively expensive (one particular piece goes for $10,000.00).

The book also tells the reader how to run an investigation and how to recruit for your group.

I picked up the book on a whim from my local library. I’ve had an interest in the supernatural all my life. But after reading the book, I realised that I was not really suited to the actual “nuts and bolts” of ghostly investigation. Sure I like watching TAPS and Ghost Hunters International, but the listing of the equipment and all the necessary add-ons left me a bit cold.

That’s not to say the book is not helpful or thorough in its usefulness. From just common sense supplies (like extra batteries) to suggestions for which editing software to use, Newman is pretty all-encompassing. In fact if you are turned on by the thought of starting your own paranormal group of “Ghost Busters” then this book will definitely get you started in the right direction.

Newman finishes the book with a gear list, a step-by-step investigative check list, some other books that might tickle your fancy, a few websites and last but not least a glossary of terms. All in all this is a great little book for the amateur ghost hunter.

I’d say this one is 5 out of 5 stars for information and equipment check lists. Just don’t be too disappointed that Rich Newman is not Jason Hawes or Grant Wilson or perhaps more accurately the two TAPS “pin-up girls” Amy Bruni and Kris Williams (although Kris is now a regular on International).

I have to admit that after reading the book and seeing all the things that go into paranormal investigations, I’ll probably limit my “activity” to watching  TAPS or Ghost Hunters International. They at least have the bonus of pretty assistant “ghost hunters” and it’s a lot less expensive.

Author and founder of Paranormal Inc Rich Newman.