Making the transition from star of a popular TV series- typically geared towards teenagers- to serious and well-respected film actor/actress can’t be easy- and success stories are far and few between. Dustin Diamond of “Saved by the Bell” fame ended up being a gross, arrogant and unlikable prick that made a short return to the spotlight (if you could even call it that) on reality television, whereas Will Smith reigned supreme on “Fresh Prince” only to go on to create blockbuster gold time and time again over the years.
Mischa Barton, previously of the once enormously popular “The O.C.” unfortunately falls into the not-so-successful category. After dropping out of the show (did they kill of Marissa Cooper? I can’t remember. I sort of lost track about halfway through the second season,) Mischa all but went M.I.A. for years, I was surprised to see her name attached to this. Same thing with Rebecca De Mornay. For a movie that was somehow released in 3-D (although I cannot for the life of me ever recall hearing about this film being shown in any theaters, ever-) and having a currently working movie actress and formerly employed television actress receiving top billing- I hadn’t expected to find this at the bottom of the barrel of Netflix horror- usually reserved for unknown and aspiring actors looking to build their resume. Then I noticed the one star rating and knew I was in for a disaster that both Ms. De Mornay and Ms. Barton probably wish would fade into obscurity forever.
The synopsis, from Netflix:
“After Janet moves into a 13th-floor apartment and falls out the window to her death, her sister aims to reveal the frightening truth about the place.”
As always, I will spoiling this movie at length and in vivid detail. If you don’t want to be spoiled- DO NOT PROCEED FORWARD.
After the agonizingly long credits that gave names and job titles nobody was interested in learning about until after the movie came to an end- we see a young woman in the most unfortunate looking pair of leggings I’ve ever laid eyes on excitedly talking on the phone about a beautiful apartment in a convenient location that she’s signed the lease for. The person she’s talking to, her sister Lara (Mischa Barton) who is shown straightening out framed music magazines and a plaque for a gold record in the home she shares with her mother- a musician played by the as-of-yet named De Mornay- scolds her sister, Janet- for being impulsive and agreeing on the very first apartment she was shown. Meanwhile, De Mornay is strumming a guitar in the background, eavesdropping on the half of her daughters’ conversation she can hear.
When Lara hangs up the phone and the mother comes to the obvious conclusion that her youngest daughter is moving out- an argument ensues between the two: covering Mother Dearest’s drinking problem, drug use, failed marriages, and floundering music career and how Janet is better off on her own where she can’t be poisoned by her mother’s bad habits. De Mornay’s character issues the sassiest of sassy replies- asking Lara what she’s ever done with her own life when she, herself- had a number one hit when she was younger than her daughter. Lara doesn’t have a retort for that, and leaves with her tail between her legs- but not before rolling her eyes in true Marissa Cooper fashion.
I promise I won’t make anymore “O.C.’ references.
Janet goes to visit the aforementioned “beautiful apartment,” which she is apparently seeing for the first time. So, this idiot signed a lease without actually checking out the property first? Alright. At this point she deserves whatever horrible paranormal experience is about to happen to her. While waiting for the graffiti covered elevator she catches a glimpse of a creepy guy with a busted face and an even creepier girl dressed like a school girl scoping her out on the dingy, dimly lit ground floor. A quick elevator ride later, and the same schoolgirl has somehow made it to the top floor before Janet. Is it too late to ask for the security deposit back?
Anyway, Janet’s $750 a month apartment sucks. It’s basically a studio somewhere in Detroit with a view that overlooks a river/canal that is probably filled with corpses and trash. Regardless, she’s smitten. Back at her mother’s house some time later- Lara and Janet’s mother is still bitter her youngest has left home, lamenting that she’s wasted the best years of her life because of her ungrateful kids and drinking a martini while Lara side-eyes her.
Janet is decorating her place, trying to spruce up the space she’s foolishly agreed to pay an obscene amount of money for, when her attempt to plug in a lamp causes a power surge and it immediately goes out. For whatever reason, Janet uses her phone as a makeshift flashlight even though the rest of the apartment looks to be well-lit until she reaches a circuit breaker and quickly resolves the issue- bringing back more light to an already bright room. From there, some noises coming from her bedroom reveals nothing more than an ironing board that has tipped over. This non-scare is enough to drive Janet to drink, but a gust of wind somehow alarms her enough to where she can’t even open a bottle of wine properly and instead goes across the hall where the previously seen school girl (who still hasn’t changed her clothes) lives to ask to borrow a corkscrew. The girl answers the door, and rather than help Janet out- tells her that the woman who previously occupied her new apartment jumped out of the window and died. Welcome to the neighborhood!
Freaked out, Janet makes her way back across the hall just as a short, rotund, and surly man gets off the elevator and starts knocking on all the doors on the floor. For whatever reason, Janet answers hers- only to have the guy tell her she’s a pretty girl and to “show him her tits.” Again- welcome to the neighborhood! Janet slams the door in his face, but the entire experience and the fact that she is now in a dreaded lease agreement in this hellhole has pushed her over the edge. She once again struggles with the corkscrew, rather than call the cops- and starts guzzling her wine while her not-waterproof-AT-ALL mascara runs down her face. It should be noted that Janet talks to herself- a lot. So far, no one has answered her- but there’s weird creaks, thuds and shadows going on at all sides while she’s trying to decompress, so…
On the other side of town, De Mornay’s character is shitfaced and harassing Lara in her bedroom which is decorated like that of a rebellious teenage girl. For the record, Mischa Barton is my age- and she looks like many women my age do. You know who don’t decorate their bedroom walls like this? Women our age.
The following morning, Janet- still teary eyed- makes a call to some guy named Mark, who I’m assuming is her boyfriend- while he loads up a trunk of a car and tucks a handgun into the back of his jeans because he’s apparently some sort of tough guy. Janet tells him about the guy who harassed her from outside her door the previous night, and mentions that there is some weird stench in the apartment that she is certain belongs to whoever died there- despite the fact that the person in question supposedly jumped out the window, so why there would be a rotting corpse anywhere in her new place is beyond me. Anyway, her boyfriend- Mark- feigns concern for all of three seconds before it’s suddenly dark out again and Janet decides to go back to bed. What? What was that time jump?
Anyway, as Janet lays in bed- there’s a figure out on her balcony. Suddenly, her bedroom doors open, then close- and Janet decides the best course of action is to take some pills and try to fall back asleep. Ghosts are pretty relentless, though- so while she lays there- things outside her bedroom door get a little louder. There’s creaking, and banging, and finally a shadow appears just outside her door bouncing what sounds like a tennis ball on the floor. Janet gets up to confront whoever/whatever it is- when it appears in all it’s terrible CGI glory and checks her into the wall- knocking her unconscious.
The following morning (whether ot not we’re going to stick with it being daytime is still up in the air,) Janet is examining bruises and assumes the pills she took caused her to sleepwalk into a wall, or down a flight of stairs- over and over. Outside her apartment, the creepy little school girl- still in her uniform- is bouncing a tennis ball off the floor in the hallway. Janet, leaving her place for the day, asks the girl if she was in her apartment the previous night. The girl is kind of a bitch, though- and backs into her own apartment before slamming the door. The next time we see Janet, she’s in her office when her co-worker notices a bruise on her face and assumes she was punched by her boyfriend- but before we get there- we flash back to Lara and her mom’s house for a quick glimpse into the song writing process that is so terrible Lara and Janet’s mom needs a martini to get through it. I was tempted to make one myself, actually.
Janet’s co-worker doesn’t believe her explanation of how she suspects the bruises showed up, but before Janet can tell her to shove it up her ass- we cut back to Lara who has just found her mother passed out on the floor with an empty bottle of booze next to her. After trying, and failing, to help her up while her mother cries that no one is tweeting her- Lara mentions she doesn’t have enough money to go out and buy food for the both of them to try and get something else besides vodka in her mother’s stomach, which prompts the lush to spring to her feet at an alarming rate and accuse her daughter of not caring about her- only about money. Lara leaves the room, taking a call from Janet who admits to not wanting to go back to her apartment. She wants to come home, instead- because in comparison- dealing with a washed-up musician who drinks too much seems a little better than dealing with a violent ghost. Lara doesn’t think it’s a good idea, considering their mother is out of her Goddamned mind- and Janet throws a hissy fit and hangs up.
After calling Mark to come over since she doesn’t feel safe alone at the apartment- Janet’s fears are quickly put to rest during an out of place, awkward foreplay scene that is almost viewed by the short, rotund, surly man from the night before- who is back and trying to catch a glimpse of the action through the peep hole in Janet’s door. He eventually gives up, sauntering off to be alone and creepy somewhere else.
After Janet and Mark fall asleep, the ghost returns, banging her forehead against the glass door to Janet’s balcony rather than just use her hands to knock- because why not?
Anyway, Mark wakes up to the noise- but is sure to check his Blackberry before he goes to investigate- and we know it’s a Blackberry because the screen cap is very specific- where we see an angry text from someone in his phone labeled “Ex” wondering where he is. Oh Mark, you dog. Anyway, Janet wakes up shortly after to the sound of the shower running and a terrible smell wafting through her apartment. Assuming it’s Mark, she pulls back the shower curtain only to find the ghost of the woman from outside her door/window sitting there. The ghost is quick to attack, dragging Janet towards the balcony and heaving her over the edge while an unsuspecting Mark is just exiting the building- the bitchy schoolgirl following behind him for reasons I’m still not sure of. Mark looks up when he hears a scream, only to see his other girlfriend plummeting to her death in the greatest spectacle of special effects I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing.
In the next scene, Lara is picking up the key to Janet’s apartment from Mark down in the lobby. She basically insinuates that Mark is responsible for her sister’s death, even going so far as to accuse him of being abusive- before she heads on up to the 13th floor for herself. It doesn’t take long for Lara to smell something gross, and she begins to explore the apartment. Quick question: did the cops ever show up at the apartment? A building inspector? Anyone? Is Lara the first person to go inside the place since Janet?
Lara goes to leave, and is confronted by the creepy school girl in the hallway, who tells her to never come back to the apartment. Turns out, her name is Emily. Lara asks a couple of pressing questions and Emily explains that a woman and her daughter live in the apartment previously occupied by Janet, and that they don’t want to share. Wait- now there’s two ghosts? Is Emily one of them since she can’t seem to change out of her damned uniform? While Lara interrogates the little puke- the other ghost inside the apartment is listening intently- and with perfectly flat-ironed hair, by the way. The conversation ends with Emily telling Lara that someone named Jennifer is mad at her, too- before she backs into her own apartment and closes the door on Lara. Ugh.
Lara phones Mark from work, who surprisingly takes her call considering she accused him of being a woman beater and possibly a murderer- and explains she’s going back to the apartment in the morning to meet the movers but would like to see him that day/night in a couple of hours for some reason to which he agrees- which is also surprising.
The blame game continues back at Lara’s house, where her mother- shitfaced as usual- accuses her of being jealous of her sister and partially responsible for what happened to her since she didn’t convince her to get out of her lease and move back home quick enough. Please keep in mind that Janet died in what I believe was the second night in her place. Not a few weeks in, not a month or two- but two nights into her move. If there was ever a time for Lara to smack the shit out of her mother- now would be it. I ALMOST got my wish when Lara suddenly throws a bag over her mother’s face and begins to suffocate her at being asked whether or not she’s taking her medication- but it turns out to sadly be a bad dream. Lara wakes up in frenzy and I shake my head in frustration.
Lara’s phone rings- and it’s… Janet? Despite the fact that her sister’s head was splattered all over the concrete just a few short scenes ago, Lara buys into the paranormal phone call with unusual calmness and heads back to the apartment- at night- only to find her sister’s ghost for a half a second before she’s promptly thrown into a wall across the room. Rather than promptly get the hell out of there- Lara instead calls the cops and tells the dispatcher, in the most robotic way possible, that she’s “scared for her life.” THEN RUN, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
Despite the fact that the urgent phone call was made at night, the cop doesn’t question Lara inside the apartment until what looks like sunrise. In a movie plagued with continuity problems- I feel like this is probably the most accurate thing- a portrayal of Detroit P.D. at their finest. Anyway, the responding officer doesn’t seem too alarmed by Lara’s explanation of events- and even reveals the apartment has a history of young women who jumped off the balcony shortly after moving in and that nobody- ever, EVER- found that suspicious.
The first woman to take the plunge (ba-dum-tsh) was named Mary, who after losing her job, became a drunk and a prostitute. When a foul odor began coming from the apartment and health inspectors arrived to investigate- Mary was dead in a closet and her daughter, Jennifer- jumped from the balcony. Uh. Okay? The cop leaves the case files with Lara because, again- why not?
Downstairs, Mark meets up with Lara. She apologizes for accusing him of murder- but then goes on to accuse him of being married and having an affair with Janet, instead. The assumptions from this girl are outrageous. Mark admits he’s separated, and that he has a son before Lara admits she’s considering keeping the apartment for herself and invites him over to talk later on. I was still confused as to why he had a gun in the back of his pants when we first saw him until the next scene shows the officer who had reported to Lara’s distress call that morning meeting up with him and asking if Janet knew he was some sort of undercover cop. Whaaaaaaaat?
Mark’s estranged wife is briefly considered a suspect when the mention of her angry text message the night Janet died is brought up (side note: the officer says the text read “where the fuck are you?” when it CLEARLY stated “where the hell are you?” Be thorough, officer.) Lara is also considered a suspect since Mark reported looking up and seeing two women on the balcony before Janet fell/got tossed. So, no one is keeping the fact that three other unrelated but eerily similar deaths took place in the very same apartment in mind? Really?
When Lara- previously strapped for cash but suddenly able to pay $750 a month in rent- tells her mother she’s moving into Janet’s place, it doesn’t go over well. With cocktail in hand, Lara’s mom tells her that if she leaves- she’s never to come back. If I were Lara, I’d probably have my bags packed in .2 seconds after that announcement.
That night- since this movie’s time frame jumps around like Goddamned crazy- Lara and Mark are drinking in the apartment together. There’s a noise from the bedroom, and Mark goes to investigate- drawing his gun. When Lara asks him why he has a gun- Mark does what any undercover cop would do when confronted with a question that has about 7 million plausible answers and instead tells her that he’s in fact, undercover. Jesus Christ. Nobody in this movie is responsible or capable of anything.
Mark spends the night on the couch, to guard Lara, when the ghost makes another appearance on the balcony just as he’s settling in for the night. She again knocks on the glass with her forehead, which serves no purpose considering she appears inside the apartment about four seconds later. The camera does that weird trick from “The Ring” where she moves around the room a little sporadically (although it looks about 10x cheaper,) and gazes fondly at Mark sleeping soundly on the couch.
The following morning, with no incidents having happened that either Lara or Mark know about- Mark leaves for the day and Lara, knowing that the damned apartment is haunted- decides to put herself in the most vulnerable position possible and opts to take a bath while she’s alone. Naturally, things go to hell- first with a warning message appearing on the wall and then with Janet’s ghost appearing in the tub and pulling her sister underwater. This STILL doesn’t seem to faze Lara- who has balls of steel at this point- because she exits the bathroom like nothing happened at all only to see the creepy, surly guy who was trying to spy on Janet sitting in her kitchen. Oh, he’s the landlord? Gross.
He wants Lara’s name on the lease right then and there, even though she’s standing in a towel- but he leaves without incident and please, God- let that be the last time we have to see him.
The officer who responded to Lara’s distress call shows up while she’s at work that day, advising her that her mother has filed a restraining order against her, claiming physical abuse- which Lara denies. He then goes on to ask questions about her whereabouts when Janet died. Dodging the questions by saying she’s going to prove her sister didn’t commit suicide- the next shot shows her mother strumming the guitar and singing in the mirror. What the hell is this? What purpose does this character even serve apart from a failed attempt at comedic relief?
Again, Mark and Lara are drinking together at the apartment. Janet’s ghost makes one final attempt to warn her sister to get out of there before she gets killed, too- but Lara just brushes it off until she goes to put something in the closet and the ghost is in there, just staring at her. After investigating, Mark suggests they leave the following day. WHY. NOT. THEN. AND. THERE. Just GO. Why spend another night?! WHY? I HATE this movie but it only has ten minutes left.
Mark wakes up to a call from his ex-wife, and from there phones another office to inquire, quietly, if they can book Lara in the morning. I KNEW he was a dog. The ghost, who I had previously thought was fond of Mark- suddenly attacks him as Lara comes out to see who he was talking to- sending him through the glass of the balcony door and killing him. Lara attempts to flee, only to be stopped by the landlord and Emily- who tell her it’s too late. She’s pretty much screwed.
Racing back into her apartment, Lara grabs a knife to defend herself when her mother shows up to try and patch things over. Seeing her daughter in distress- the drunkard suddenly has a moment of clarity, trying to talk her down as her daughter wields the knife like an insane person. The ghost ends up pushing Lara’s mother onto the blade, and that is- thankfully- the last we see of her as she dies.
I had half-expected Lara to finish the prophecy of Jennifer and her mother, Mary- by throwing herself off the balcony- sort of bringing things full-circle, if you will. Instead, she’s arrested for the murders of Mark and her mother- and the final scene is the ghost just casually sitting on the edge of the balcony, looking out at the sunrise/sunset. That’s it. End movie. Roll credits.
Awful acting, continuity problems, a plot that went nowhere and made no sense. Characters that were never fully explained. Worst of all? This took place in Detroit. You know where this kind of mess would never happen?
…. CALIFORNIAAAAAA. CALIFORNIAAAAAAA. HERE WE COOOOOOOMMMME.
Okay, THAT was my last “O.C.” reference.