Directed by: David Marmor
Premise: A young woman (Nicole Brydon Bloom) moves into a Los Angeles apartment complex. At first, the community seems ideal but the new tenant gradually comes to realize that the complex houses a sinister secret.
What Works: 1BR is a story of a young woman learning to assert herself. Sarah, played by Nicole Brydon Bloom, has relocated to Los Angeles in order to strike out on her own and she has a strained relationship with her father and a low level office job. She keeps finding herself isolated in subordinate situations in which she’s bullied. When Sarah takes an apartment in a housing complex, she suddenly finds herself in a community. It’s a welcome change until that community shows its true face and becomes a totalitarian state in miniature. Although this is a cult movie like The Sacrament and Martha Marcy May Marlene, the story has broader implications. It visualizes the libertarian fear of collectivism as the needs of the individual are squashed in favor of the demands of the community. Placing this story in a secular Los Angeles neighborhood has further suggestions about conformity and consumerism. That gives the film some substance and 1BR offers something to think about and pick apart. The concept of 1BR is wild but the filmmakers generally make it plausible. The activities of the apartment community are never too far out and several of the supporting characters are presented in a warm and empathetic way that contrasts with the brutality of the cult. Especially notable is Susan Davis as an elderly former actress as well as Clayton Hoff as a guy who is initially creepy but is gradually revealed to be a victim of the community. 1BR is quite violent in a few places and the tension between the brutality and moments of humanity is unsettling, giving the film a unique quality of horror.
What Doesn’t: The narrative of 1BR moves along briskly but it is a little too streamlined for its own good. This is a story about a woman who is indoctrinated by a cult and eventually has to decide whether or not she’s going to escape. Her conversion into the cult feels incomplete. Getting involved in a cult is akin to being in an abusive relationship; pain is matched with seduction and the abused party’s sense of self gradually becomes dependent upon the person in power. In 1BR, the protagonist’s conversion is all pain but no seduction and her eventual break with the cult is too sudden. That lack of depth compromises the movie especially its regard for the characters.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: 1BR is a well crafted horror picture. The movie sacrifices some opportunities for depth in the name of perspicuity but the scenario offers a lot to think about and the movie successfully combines visceral and psychological frights.
Episode: #816 (September 6, 2020)