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APARTMENT COMPLEX, THE (TV)(director: Tobe Hooper; screenwriter: Karl Schaefer; cinematographer: Jacques Haitkin; editor: Andrew Horvitch; cast: Chad Lowe (Stan Warden), Fay Masterson (Alice), Amanda Plummer (Miss Chenille), R. Lee Ermey (Frank Stanton), Obba Babatunde (Chett), Jon Polito (Dr. Caligari), Ron Canada (Detective Culver), Miguel Sandoval (Detective Duarte), Tyra Banks (Shana), Gina Mari (Kiki), Patrick Warburton (Morgan), Charles Martin Smith (Gary Glumley); Runtime: 99; Showtime TV release; 1999)

“The director has failed to keep this shallow film above even the low water mark it set for itself.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Showtime Original movie. It’s a strained comedy/mystery story. It tries so hard to waver between reality and being completely off-the-wall, until it succumbs to being mostly annoying and far too cute for it to be appealing. I can only recommend this film for those who want to see Amanda Plummer perform magic in the role of a psychic. She can do no wrong, no matter how ridiculous her part. The trouble is she sticks out like a rose in a weed garden.

Rob Lowe’s brother Chad stars as the naive Stan Warden, who leaves his family house in the Midwest to live in his car in California, while taking graduate courses in psychology. Desperate to earn some money, he takes a job as a manager of a creepy apartment complex in Hollywood, where he gets a rent-free apartment. The apartment he gets is filled with crates and plastic bags marked the property of Glumley and looks like the dark apartment a demented person would inhabit.

The Wonder View Apartments has a swimming pool that is polluted with slime and filled with debris and it has an assortment of odd and annoying tenants, from wise guy roller skaters to corny lovebirds. Stan meets the eccentric tenants as he goes for the job interview. He mistakes the slum landlord Dr. Caligari for someone who is a homeless philosopher (Obba), and has the distinction of getting hired by both the false and the real landlord (Polito). The tenants get a chance to try out their revue comedy shtick for him and he gets to see this weird place designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s cousin Iggy, as he is introduced to the tenants by the homeless one. There is one apartment, No. 19, that is missing, which he can’t find when he goes there to deliver a strange package he receives addressed to it; and, in apartment No. 9, the one next door to Amanda, there is someone who has mysteriously lived there for 10 years but who has never been seen. She says she wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a lineup. In apartment No. 4 lives an attractive but troubled girl (Fay) he swoons over, who is going out with a psychopathic muscleman (Warburton). He has fits of jealousy, threatening to beat up anyone who even looks at her. Then there are two body double/stunt actresses (Tyra Banks and Gina Mari), they provide some martial arts scene routines as they are scantily dressed in a bikini top and shorts while trying out their choke hold act.

The story revolves around Stan’s study of psychology in the sterile college atmosphere, where rats are experimented in a maze to study human behavior. This is compared to how invigorating it is to study people’s behavior in a real setting, as he finds people in this setting act the same way the rats behave in a maze. To further mock the study of psychology the hero uses the bust of Freud to knock out the bullying boyfriend of apartment No. 4, implying that is about all Freud is good for nowadays.

The ambitious Stan cleans out the pool with an ex-CIA tenant (Ermey) helping him lift a heavy object out of the pool which is supposedly the dead body of the last manager, Glumley. The two detectives (Canada and Sandoval) for no reason at all, make Stan the only suspect in their homicide case. This might have been funny if there was some reason given for them picking on the dumbfounded Stan, who has an airtight alibi. But the film defeated itself by trying to be both real and absurd thereby nothing caught fire, it all seemed like every man and woman was out for themselves to see if they can get a laugh somehow from a story that was going nowhere.

Under Tobe Hooper’s (Poltergeist/Texas Chain Massacre) direction, there were many gaps in the story. One can easily make a case that nothing made sense and what was funny, was only silly. The director has failed to keep this shallow film above even the low water mark it set for itself.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”