What could go wrong with two first-time producers and a first-time writer/director?” It’s a thought taken from producer Alok Mishra’s behind-the-scenes recollection of new indie scare-flick Apartment 1BR. Given the scale of the production troubles on such a small movie, from a debut filmmaker to boot, it is a miracle that Apartment 1BR even exists at all; not that it leaves an impression when all is said and done.

Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) is new to Los Angeles and lucks out almost immediately with a perfect apartment full of colourful, but affable characters. Things soon unravel with unsettling bumps in the night and threatening notes from unseen individuals leading Sarah to grow increasingly paranoid about her new home and neighbours.

Apartment 1BR (simply titled 1BR in its native USA) works best during its opening act with writer/director David Marmor perfectly capturing the loneliness of LA and the faux-community that builds around an apartment complex. Do the smiles of your neighbours mask hostile actions and opinions? It is a solid, if uninspired, premise that sets up a tight 90-minute thriller, only for things to then take a hard left turn.

A violent, uncomfortable interlude transitions the film into a whole new world, bringing to mind films such as The Master but without the skill or nuance required to pull it off. It’s an awkward change of pace which requires several of the cast (particularly Taylor Nichols as landlord Jerry) to play up their charisma, but whether as a result of writing, direction, or performance the magnetism never pops off the screen and thus all ambiguity is lost, taking any remaining interest along with it.

 Apartment 1BR is not a disaster from start to finish, but it is tragic to see the film throw away a tense set up in exchange for a languorous, less exciting payoff. In fact, the finale does nothing to camouflage that it’s directly lifted from Karyn Kusama’s wonderful mystery horror The Invitation; so much so it’s difficult to separate the laughable from the infuriating. Either way, the movie fails to land the ton it is going for and thus things close on the biggest bum note of all after an hour of diminishing returns in terror.

Available on VoD now