“Hemlock Grove” and “The Vampire Diaries” actress Penelope Mitchell gives a winning performance in the horror film “Apartment 212,” playing a down-on-her-luck waitress who restarts her life after leaving an abusive husband. Mitchell’s character Jennifer is hugely sympathetic in navigating her multiple obstacles to happiness: the ex who’s still stalking her, the prospective male bosses who won’t hire her and the mysterious nocturnal creature who keeps leaving tiny bite marks on her body.
Directed by Haylar Garcia (from a script co-written with Jim Brennan and Kathryn Gould), “Apartment 212” takes too long to get where it needs to go. It’s well over an hour before the heroine confronts the mini-monster who’s been nibbling at her. Before that, there’s a lot of teasing and foreshadowing in grindingly slow-paced scenes.
But while there’s only 25 minutes of good material strewn throughout a movie four times that length, “Apartment 212” squeaks by thanks to its cast. Besides Mitchell, the movie has comedian-musician Kyle Gass playing Jennifer’s helpful neighbor, and Sally Kirkland as her judgmental landlord. They’re both fun to watch even when not much is happening.
What really makes the film stand out though (aside from some excellent creature effects) is Mitchell. She squeezes as much as she can out out of this slim story. Anyone who faces down a toothy pint-sized demon can surely hold her own against all the other controlling dudes in her life.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Monica Film Center, Santa Monica