I Don’t Smell Any Bacon Cooking!

Main Cast: Penelope Mitchell, Kyle Gass

Director: Haylar Garcia

Sometimes you stumble upon a random movie you had no idea existed and sometimes that movie is just the thing you didn’t know you wanted to see.

In APARTMENT 212 Jennifer Conrad (Penelope Mitchell, Hemlock Grove) has left her abusive husband and moved into a crappy apartment with whatever she could fit onto the trailer she’s hitched to the back of her Ford Taurus.  It’s not a great life, but it’s hers and she cherishes it.

Her neighbors are a bit iffy, but downstairs neighbor Terry (Kyle Gass of Tenacious D) seems nice enough and even gives her a welcome to the complex present in a turtle named Tina.

But not everything in her new apartment is peaches and cream: her next door neighbor Stella cries.  Like ALL NIGHT.  And the sound of it is coming through the vent into apartment 212 where our main character lives and it’s REALLY starting to stress her out.  She can barely sleep and she’s got a big interview in a couple of weeks.

Eventually, whatever was plaguing Stella becomes too much to bear and the woman blows her brains out with a shotgun she stole from another complex resident.

Among the castoffs from Stella’s apartment, Jennifer finds a small metal box she likes, and she takes it back to her apartment.  This is a barely-noticed action and one I didn’t even realize had happened until later when it becomes important.

Now, while Jennifer thinks her sleep troubles are over with the demise of the crier next door, she couldn’t be more wrong.  See, when Stella died, the complex hired a fumigator to go through the apartment which had been infested with bugs.  And now Jennifer is waking up every morning with new bites all over her, and she naturally assumes Stella’s bed bugs have made their way to her place.

Through a very well-done montage scene, we see her slowly going crazy and devolving into a shivering mess of open sores and fidgety movements.  Mitchell shines in this section, giving her character all the quirks of a heavy meth addict, so much so the other characters believe that’s at the heart of her troubles.

Jennifer, however, insists she’s not on drugs, but is being eaten alive by bed bugs, even when another exterminator comes in and assures her that his 16-point sweep revealed not so much as a suspicious cow chip.

When she finally gets herself to a doctor, the prognosis is even more disturbing.  Did your neighbor have any vermin, the doctor asks.  Because these don’t look like bed bug bites, the ragged edges here suggest something is trying to eat you.

I admit, when I first watched the trailer for APARTMENT 212, I was dreading it.  It looked terrible, the special effects looked silly and cheap and I would have put money down I was in store for something closer to a Sci-Fi Original from The Asylum rather than the tense descent into paranoia that I got.

And maybe that’s jumping the gun a little, I’m not suggesting APARTMENT 212 (or GNAW as it is also known) is a GREAT movie, it’s also got its share of flaws.  But there are genuine moments of talent here, both in acting and direction (the movie is written and directed by Haylar Garcia, AN AMERICAN TERROR).

Garcia’s use of split screens to show the passage of time and Jennifer’s fragmenting mind was excellent, as was Mitchell’s struggle to keep her sanity while slowly being driven mad from sleep deprivation.  The makeup crew also gets a special nod for those sores.  Holy crap those were gross.

But I will have to ding Mitchell on some other aspects of her performance.  I don’t know what it was, but in the scenes where she’s acting opposite someone else, she feels stiff and contrived and maybe it’s the dialogue, but I had a hard time believing it.  In fact, for a minute I was starting to believe my own preconceived notions that APARTMENT 212 would be a terrible movie, based on how little was happening in the beginning and how bad Mitchell was when playing off anyone else.

It was only in the solo scenes when it’s just her and her madness that her talent starts to come through.  But it wasn’t just her, Gass was also back and forth, charming and fun in some scenes, terrible and hacky in others, so maybe that falls at Garcia’s feet.

Either way, there were definitely some cringe-inducing moments in APARTMENT 212, coupled with some truly stellar ones.

I liked the story and how it waits until almost the last possible second to reveal itself, but there were a few pretty predictable moments once we reached that climax that I wish hadn’t been so telegraphed.

But overall, bad line readings aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and wish I hadn’t been so tired while watching it so I could enjoy it even more.  Maybe some day if I ever carve out the time, I’ll give it another go and see if it holds up.

APARTMENT 212 is currently streaming for free on SLING and on Amazon Prime Video.

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