Apartment 212 (Gnaw) – Review

Horror | 97 Min
Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Horror Movie Review
  • Release Date: 16 Sep, 2017
  • Director: Haylar Garcia
  • Actors: Penelope Mitchell, Kyle Gass, Chris Johnson, Sally Kirkland,
  • Country: United States, Spain
  • Language: English
  • Parental Guidance: Language, violence, suicide, domestic abuse, sexual assault, upsetting themes, some injury detail
  • Writers: Haylar Garcia, Jim Brennan, Kathryn Gould
  • Producers: Haylar Garcia, Jim Brennan, Michael Haskins, Betsy Leighton, Richard Turner, Stephan Shelanski
  • Horror | 97 Min

Jennifer is starting a new life away from an abusive ex-husband, but falls into paranoia and fear as something eats her a bite at a time as she sleeps. She must confront her fears to wage a final battle for survival before the last bite.

Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another horror movie review. After starting this week off in somewhat disappointing fashion. I am hoping to turn it around a bit. There’s Something Wrong With The Children was a woefully bad movie. We found it to be a disappointing, scare free, mess of a horror. Today we are taking a look at Gnaw. I believe this movie is also known as Apartment 212. I may refer to it interchangeably because I have to please papa google.

Directed by Haylar Garcia. Gnaw is one of those movies that has been around for awhile. Despite this, it seems to be being marketed as a relatively new film. When we watched it, it was advertised as being a 2022 film. From what I can tell, it did the festival circuit back in 2018. I am assuming it is only now receiving promotion on streaming sites.

Gnaw (Apartment 212) follows the story of Jennifer (Penelope Mitchell). Jennifer is moving to an apartment complex after suffering abuse at the hands of her husband. Determined to make something of herself. She applies for jobs but is rejected due to lack of experience. Jennifer notices that her neighbour is covered in sores. She hears her crying all throughout the night. One day, out of the blue, her neighbour commits suicide. Jennifer takes a discarded box that belonged to her. All of a sudden, she begins to suffer her own nightmare. What could be the cause?

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Ending Explained

We put out a couple of Horror Movie Ending Explained articles each week. In these articles, we take a look at certain movies and explain the ending. It’s pretty straightforward really. Many of these films may have obvious endings with a few questions left unanswered. Others will be ridiculously confusing. We approach them all the same and try to clear things up.

Apartment 212 has a fairly straight forward plot. Things do start to get a little messy towards the end, though. There is one part, in particular, that may leave viewers feeling a little confused. With that in mind, we take a look in our Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Ending Explained article. Keep in mind, only view the article if you have already watched the movie. Unlike our reviews, Ending Explained articles are not spoiler free.

Body Horror

Body horror is a very interesting sub-genre. The vast majority of horror movies scare you in fairly conventional ways. Whether it is a bad guy chasing vulnerable people. Paranormal happenings tormenting a family. Unseen monsters in the woods or simply uncomfortable domestic situations. Horror typically follows a well worn blueprint.

Body horror strays from that blueprint in quite a significant way. Body horror is one of the few horror subgenres that doesn’t require an antagonist. It is the self destruction of the human body that makes this type of movie so scary. The thought that a person could begin rotting away. It’s a very visceral fear and incredibly effective. Whether the person is transforming into something different or is just ill. Body horror taps into a very specific type of fear present in all of us.

Chunks of flesh coming away from the bone. Teeth being pulled out and dropped into the sink. Painful looking open wounds. It is real “turn away from the TV” stuff. Scenes of nails being peeled off, one by one, are always impactful. Sure, it is a little overdone in this day and age. But it is no less wince inducing. Body horror can be some of the absolute scariest horror around. Without question!

A Bit of a Bait and Switch

So why am I mentioning body horror, here? Well, that’s what I thought I was getting when I went into Gnaw. The cover sure as hell suggested that. A woman’s naked back covered in open wounds. I thought this would be the type of movie that would turn your stomach. You know? The kind you don’t eat while watching. Well, boy was I disappointed.

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Horror Movie Review

I am here to warn you that if you go into this movie expecting that, you will leave unsatisfied. The body horror here is a very minor part of it. Our protagonist, Jennifer, does suffer some nasty wounds. Despite that, it really isn’t the focus at all. This is not the place to go looking for amazing makeup effects. You will not find nails being peeled off or rotten chunks of flesh here. This is a completely different type of horror movie.

Tons of Domestic Drama

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) is far more of a creature movie. It may not seem it for at least 40 minutes, however. There is a tremendous focus on establishing the scene. Indeed, for much of its length, Gnaw could accurately be described as a domestic drama. Sure, a boring domestic drama, but a domestic drama nonetheless.

Jennifer is escaping abuse. While doing this, she is experiencing the same troubles that many in that situation face. She is low on funds. She has a non-existent support network. Her husband’s constant mocking of her echoes in her mind. His claims that she will never be anything other than a waitress haunt her. Ill equipped for job interviews, Jennifer is struggling to establish herself.

The movie spends a significant portion of its runtime on depicting Jennifer’s woes. Her husband is a complete haemorrhoid of a human. An active police person, he uses his power to facilitate his abuse of Jennifer. Moving into her small apartment. She is constantly bothered by the cries of the person next door. Much of this feels very similar to another “Apartment” titled movie – Apartment 1BR. Jennifer is a fish out of water and the people around her feel like sharks.

The Body Horror is a Minor Element

As the movie goes on, we get into the horror a little more. Jennifer is waking up each morning with horrible sores. For the briefest moment, this movie starts to feel, at least somewhat, like a body horror. It becomes clear, fairly quickly, that this isn’t the focus of the film, however. A montage scene summarises Jennifer’s struggles. It’s basically Rocky Balboa training scene meets itchy skin sores. Extremely disappointing and horribly out of place in a horror movie.

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Horror Movie Review

We then spend a decent amount of time watching Jennifer deal with the consequences. She has open sores all over her body, she isn’t sleeping and is scratching frequently. For lack of a better way to put it, she looks like a tweaker. The people around her also believe she is on drugs. Her neighbour’s reactions change and she is greeted with even more hostility. This further extends the movie’s domestic drama feel. Once again, completely abandoning the horror aspect.

An Adorable Little Bastard

A potential explanation for these sores eventually becomes obvious to Jennifer. Now, this is something that you likely would have picked up on early. There isn’t any kind of mystery here. It is fairly apparent to anyone watching. A frantic final twenty minutes will leave you feeling off balance. They will also give you a bit of a laugh. Creature design is an important aspect of horror. Let’s just say, my fiancée wants a plush version of the creature design in this movie. It is fucking adorable.

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Horror Movie Review

It is also completely and utterly absent of any threat. The fact that we are supposed to be scared of this is laughable. Apartment 212 (Gnaw) is devoid of scares throughout. The final twenty minutes are absolutely no exception. In fact, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to wrap this film up. The movie has been pretty disappointing throughout. Why not wrap it up with something equally disappointing?

Predictable, Slow and Lacking in Scares

And the above is really the issue at the heart of Gnaw. It is a disappointing movie that never delivers on what it promises. The premise here is a well worn one. Malicious creatures and Dybbuk boxes are old horror tropes. Haylar Garcia just fails to do anything interesting with them. It feels like a long, boring, domestic drama with a few horror elements. Naturally there is a degree of social commentary here. Jennifer is a woman who has suffered abuse. She has been told she is useless and will fail in her new life. What better way to prove that sentiment wrong? Have her face up against an adorable, yet grumpy, monster.

A predictable ending provides a yawn inducing full stop at the end of this movie. A movie that is hard to care about. It is really difficult to see how this could have been better. The concept itself is tired. As far as horror goes, this is a thread bare blanket without much fabric left. There isn’t much left to be done. Taking the same tired old tropes. Placing them in a different domestic setting and hoping for the best won’t cut it. Even with a decent protagonist. That does bring me on to my next point though.

A Few Plus Points

There are a few bright spots here and there. Penelope Mitchell, as Jennifer, is great. Her performance is both sympathetic and relatable. She has excellent use of facial expressions. She also does a great job expressing emotion. Mitchell is very believable when reacting to the horribly itchy sores. That is, obviously, important given the theme of the movie. All in all, she is really fitting in the lead role.

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Horror Movie Review

Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass, as Terry, is tons of fun. That probably doesn’t even need to be said. His cheesy dad jokes and affable personality add a sense of warmth to the movie. As Jennifer’s only real friend, he acts as something of a sidekick at times. This adds a bit of depth and makes for some interesting interactions.

The story can be fairly engaging. Jennifer is a likeable character and you want her to succeed. You want her to get past her husband’s abuse and do well. That makes her story easy to invest in. Apartment 212 can be funny at times, as well. Much of this is down to the chemistry between Jennifer and Terry. The other residents of the complex can also be amusing. Gnaw is a fairly easy watch. It’s not a particularly heavy movie that demands a lot of attention. From this perspective, it is quite enjoyable.

And a Few More Negative Points

Despite these positives. The laborious 97 minute runtime is a chore. It painfully stretches out what equates to about 35 minutes of actual content. The script can be horribly written at times. A scene where Jennifer protests her Landlady’s accusations of drug use is noteworthy. I won’t go into specifics but it is rather ridiculous. I am not sure whether comedy was the aim here? Either way, it falls flat as does much of the writing. As per usual, some of the ways Jennifer reacts are nonsensical. This stretches to the actions of some of her neighbours as well.

Chris Johnson, as Jennifer’s husband Boyd, is pretty bad. Johnson’s “bad boy” act feels horribly plastic and out of place. I am not sure whether he was putting on an accent or not? Either way, his vocal delivery was very poor. He just came across as very hammy.

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) Horror Movie Review

Direction was a little messy. Far too much time was devoted to the domestic element. The montage scene used to progress the story of Jennifer’s sores was awful. The final act features some interesting shots. The overall style of the movie, however, screams B-Movie. Unfortunately, not in a good way. From the music to the presentation. It gets old about 3 minutes in and doesn’t let up. There are some ugly camera effects as well. Frames fade in and out during shot progressions and it looks horrible. There are a few redundant filming decisions throughout. It is a real mixed bag.

Is it a Knockout?

Apartment 212 (Gnaw) is a creature horror masquerading as something a lot more interesting. Presenting itself as a body horror. The movie rapidly switches lanes towards the end. The result is something that feels extremely ordinary and middle of the road. A creature that is absolutely adorable and not in the least bit scary doesn't help. This is a film devoid of tension and atmosphere. Whereas this wouldn't have been a big problem if the movie was a body horror. It is a major problem because that's not what this is.

Excellent acting from Penelope Mitchell helps somewhat. Tenacious D's Kyle Gass brings the laughs, as one might expect. A fairly compelling story of domestic abuse burns out pretty quickly. The result is a film that feels like it has stretched its premise beyond all recognition. A laborious 97 minutes roll by with little to keep the viewer interested. Still, this is a fairly undemanding movie. It has a few laughs and doesn't ask too much of the viewer. Just don't expect to be very entertained or at all surprised. This is a middle of the road b-movie with some decent acting and little else.

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