Having your first child can be stressful — in fact, it might drive you crazy. For Marco (Nicholas Saenz), it’s the latter. The additional weight of being unemployed doesn’t help. Then there’s that unseen landlord entering the apartment and leaving cryptic post-it notes. And a hidden mobile flip phone communicating threatening text messages. Marco finds living in Apartment 413 to be disastrous for his mental health.
His pregnant girlfriend Dana (Brea Grant) tries to be understanding, though Marco seems to play Call of Duty as much as he job hunts. For the most part, Dana treads on sainthood. Still Marco doesn’t share with her the little things that nag at the edge of his psyche, even when it’s clear that reality is shifting on him. When a gruff mechanic (Dave Buckman) starts haunting the neighborhood outside, you half expect him to shout at Marco, “you’ve always been living here!”
Here, by the way, is Austin, Texas. However, Apartment 413 lays out how ubiquitous Silicon Valley has become. It could be any big city with hot summers and mind warping powers. Marco dreams of lifting himself out of his blue collar life and providing for his incipient family, but something else has other plans for him.
Screenwriter Ron Maede has plotted out a nifty thriller, while director Matt Patterson paces things to make sure that once the audience has their bearings, he can gently tip them over. Apartment 413 isn’t a gore fest; instead, Patterson plays some visual tricks to keep the horror firmly rooted in the mind — and occasionally dawning fear on Marco’s face.
As Marco, Saenz carries the majority of the film, spending a lot of time alone in that apartment. Grant has a deceptively difficult job, throwing herself into a role with twists and turns while having to maintain a luminous front. The fun role goes to Buckman, loud, sweaty, and alternating between threatening and mock helpful. Though a few other characters pass by, the film rests on this trio, and they’re solid.
Apartment 413 has a slow burn to tension, but a pretty good payoff. It was pitched to me as “The Shining in a one-bedroom apartment,” and that’s not too far off. More importantly, it’s smart, with an ending that I found haunting. Not that there’s haunting going on… or is there?