Apartment Zero (1988)

Starring Hart Bochner, Colin Firth, Dora Bryan, Liz Smith, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, James Telfer, Mirella D’Angelo, Francesca d’Aloja

Directed by Martin Donovan

Truth be told, Apartment Zero is not a horror movie. And if you normally take the phrases “thought provoking” to mean ‘boring” and “not for all tastes” as “not for me”, then feel free to go ahead and jump ship now..

Adrian LeDuc (Firth) is a young, single guy living in Buenos Aires. He owns the apartment building in which he lives, and operates a movie revival house. He is deeply anti-social and refuses to make friends with any of his tenants. But with his mother wasting away in a hospital from an undetermined mental illness and his theatre on the brink of financial ruin, he reluctantly advertises for a roommate.

Enter Jack Carney (Bochner). Adrian is immediately drawn to the attractive, mysterious American – and a very bizarre relationship begins. Although there is a great deal of sexual tension between them, they are each hiding something. Each is telling lies. And each is scared to trust the other. With good reason…

Buenos Aires is experiencing a wave of violent killings that may or may not be politically motivated. Is Jack a serial killer? Is Adrian? Or is something more sinister brewing?

Apartment Zero is at its best when it stays within the confines of the apartment building. Each of the residents has their own peculiarities, and Jack sets about seducing them all. Some of these vignettes are amusing, others are quietly disturbing. For example: Jack’s seduction of a neglected wife. This somewhat cliched scenario is given a dark twist when the wife segues from speaking about her husband to detailing how desperately she misses her father. Jack quickly adopts a paternal tone voice and asks, in a whisper, what his “little girl” wants. Creepy.

But the less said about the plot, the better. Apartment Zero takes some surprising turns, and it’s best to leave them as surprises. This flick has suspense, dark humor, lots o’ style, and is filled with knowing references; film buffs will have a field day spotting all of the “in jokes”. I can understand where some folks may find it a bit slow, though. There is no graphic violence, nudity, or sex. It’s all about implication and subtlety. It is not, however, a film for the kiddies. It is very adult in nature.

Colin Firth and Hart Bochner each contribute solid performances, as do all of the supporting players. Although Firth has appeared in a number of acclaimed films (Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones’s Diary, etc.), Bochner has not been so lucky. Probably best known for his roles in Supergirl and Terror Train, he recently participated in the slap to all that is good in movies known as Urban Legends: Final Cut.

So can you tell that I really, really dig this movie? I have seen it several times, and each time I discover something new about it to like. (My only true problem with it is how it seems to equate homosexuality with mental illness. But all of the characters, straight or gay, seem pretty messed up in the head.)

Currently available on DVD through Platinum Disc Corporation, Apartment Zero deserves much better than this half-assed release. The movie is presented in fullscreen, there are no extras (not even a trailer!), and the video quality is average. Still better than the VHS, I reckon.

Issues with the DVD aside, this is one of my all time faves. If you have a taste for a true psychological thriller (not the kind that Shannon Tweed releases direct to video every week), Apartment Zero is one to treasure. Again and again.

“If that is a mask, please take it off now… or keep it on forever.”

4 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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