Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Review: Take a Peek into ‘Apartment 212’

By: J. Carlos Menjivar

Moving day can be a swirl of emotions compounded by the physicality of the transference of personal belongings from one location to another. It is a mental strain as much as it is a physical one and an adjustment to a hitherto foreign environment, that through tedious days and nights, one must ultimately adjust to.

Jennifer Conrad (Penelope Mitchell) is starting anew, fleeing from an abusive relationship with ex-husband (and police officer) Boyd (Chris Johnson). The new property is an eclectic mixture of: hippie pothead, curmudgeon landlord (played by veteran actress (Sally Kirkland), and eccentric neighbor Terry (Kyle Gass). Jennifer’s situation is less than idyllic, but save for these pesky neighbors things should turn around for our protagonist… right?

L-R: Kyle Gass as ‘Terry’ and Sally Kirkland as ‘Claudette’

That’s where things get tricky; it seems that those closest to home are the ones that perhaps possess the most danger. Take for instance Jennifer’s next door neighbor. At first glance her look is classic meth addict — cuts and boils all over her face and body, accentuated by erratic behavior. There’s nothing wholly suspicious here, merely another blemish on an already terrible living situation. However, and strangely enough, there are guttural sounds that emit from Jennifer’s vent at night from the wall closest to the aforementioned neighbor, and as it becomes clear, her look has nothing to do with drugs. 

Just when Jennifer has found a bit of normalcy in her new surroundings her crazed neighbor commits suicide by shotgun (and practically in front of Jennifer). This may appear like the end of a brief chapter in Jennifer’s life, however, it only gets worse from here. Her nights are about to get longer and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Desperate for a job, in an effort to turn around her situation, by sheer chance she nabs a favorable interview. With the trauma of the suicide she witnesses, and her belligerent and persistent ex-husband, Jennifer’s new beginning is starting to look like anything but. On top of all this, those boils and scratches her neighbor exhibited… they’re beginning to appear all over Jennifer.

Director and co-writer (co-written with Jim Brennan and Kathryn Gould) Haylar Garcia crushes his protagonist forcing us to sympathize with our hero.  Jennifer begins to succumb to the same body disfigurations as her neighbor and we’re left but witnesses of her corporeal transformation. For some this prolongation of action may work, but for others, expecting a bigger, faster pay off, it might be too safe and tedious.

Penelope Mitchell as ‘Jennifer’

Nevertheless, as it turns out, the abrasions on Jennifer’s body are small bites from an unknown perpetrator and they happen exclusively while she’s asleep. Clearly it’s all linked to the apartment next door and the mystery of such is compelling, but it takes Jennifer a little too long for her to actually exhibit the same curiosity as the viewer. Jennifer is near the deep end before her curiosity burrows enough for her to peruse around the deceased’s apartment. Although tedious, it fits the bill — we expect Jennifer to be passive and tolerable of her physical pain, she’s had to deal with such in her marital relationship — and it works for viewers patient enough to appreciate the pacing and mood Garcia has established. 

Despite the occasional sluggish plotting, Garcia gives us an exciting final act, where we receive long-awaited answers and perhaps the best moment in the film (an ending that recalls the Trilogy of Terror segment “Amelia”). It’s fun and exciting and a little off the wall. Garcia, has hitherto offered a well-balanced film with moments of deadly seriousness and comic absurdity. In one scene in particular, Garcia deftly teeters between both when Jennifer heads over to a promising job interview with her body covered in cuts, bloodied bandages, and chapped lips; in reality one would skip the interview in such a condition, but her persistent attitude coupled with great direction is what sells the moment. This is just one scene, however, Garcia, exhibits proficiency as a director offering atmospheric pacing that prolongs and heightens the film’s inevitable showdown. Apartment 212 manages to hold the audiences attention, even if it flatlines a bit in the second act, but piques the interest of the viewer until the very end, leaving off with a satisfying ending. 

From Gravitas Ventures Apartment 212 is out now on Digital HD and Bluray/DVD.  Check out the trailer below.

Keep the Fear Alive!

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