The Dead Girl in Apartment 03

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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The Dead Girl in Apartment 03  (2022, director/script: Kurtis Spieler; cast: Laura Dooling, Bryan Manley Davis, Michael Schantz, Adrienne King, Frank Whibey)





Laura (Laura Dooling) hears a strange noise from her roommate's bedroom. She investigates and finds the roommate, Elizabeth, dead. No signs of foul play. But she died with a terrified expression frozen on her face. If you've seen The Ring, you know that can't be good.

The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 follows the template of many low-budget horror films. A small cast limited to a few sets. Only five actors enjoy any real screen time. Laura, ex-boyfriend Christian (Bryan Manley Davis), Elizabeth's boyfriend, Derek (Michael Schantz), and two detectives investigating the case (Adrienne King, Frank Whibey).

It's a claustrophobic story, set mostly in Laura's small apartment. After the detectives leave, Laura tries to learn why Elizabeth died, even as she is stalked by Elizabeth's ghost. It's a low-key haunting, what's known as a "slow burn." Laura doesn't know she's being haunted for most of the film.

The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 often feels like a stage play. Much talk, little action. Much of that talk is about Laura's relationship with Christian, and one detective's romantic interest in Laura.

"Slow burn" horror can be boring, but not this film. Kurtis Spieler's script (he also directed) has no padding, its dialog is pithy and succinct, its story briskly paced. Well, it is a short film. Minus the opening and end credits, it runs at about 65 minutes.

The cast is quite good. Schantz is wonderfully creepy. We have no logical reason to be wary of him, but we are. Dooling displays an exceptional range; confused, nervous, depressed, and terrified. I was trying to place her face, and finally realized, she resembles Gina Philips. (I love Jeepers Creepers!)

Shannon Madden's cinematography is dark and murky. I suppose that's intentional. An attempt to create a spooky atmosphere. But images could have been sharper and easier to see. Not a huge problem, but I think she overdid the murkiness.



Many of the "scares" are unexceptional. They're the usual J-horror techniques from over 20 years ago. Laura's in the shower when a ghost suddenly walks across the screen -- gasp! -- to the sound of a loud boom. Laura's sleeping on a sofa when a ghost suddenly emerges from offscreen space -- gasp! -- and lowers her face right beside Laura's. Laura is in the foreground while the camera pans to the right and we see a ghost -- gasp! -- standing in a doorway.

Naturally, Laura is oblivious all of this.

This sort of stuff was scary 20 years ago, but unless you're just entering puberty and are new to horror, seasoned horror fans will be too jaded to be surprised or frightened by any of it. The film did shock me once. That's pretty good, as most horror films fail to shock me even once.


Rather than sudden "jump scares" (which are easy to manufacture), these days I seek horror films with an engrossing story and engaging characters. The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 offers that in its third act, picking up steam when creepy Derek arrives. He seems to know what happened to Elizabeth. When he leaves, Laura searches Elizabeth's room and finds material related to witchcraft and demonology. And a demonic symbol under the bed. (In Lost Souls, it was above the bed, hidden by ceiling tiles.)

The film has an emotionally satisfying ending. Not logically satisfying; there are several loose strings and unanswered questions. But that's typical of many otherwise entertaining horror films.

The Dead Girl in Apartment 03 is an unremarkable ghost story. But it's well crafted and entertaining.


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