Claustrophobic and Inventive Apartment Thriller 1BR (2020) Tackles the Horrors of Housing
First Wide Release: April 24th, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: David Marmor
Writer: David Marmor
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) moves to Los Angeles to realize her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She also hopes to prove to her father that she can make it on her own, which is why it is such a victory for her to stumble upon a vacancy in a great apartment complex. Once she moves in, however, she realizes that things aren’t as picture-perfect as they seem. First-time writer/director David Marmour brings the audaciously sinister 1BR to life with strong casting, bold storytelling, and tight direction.
The team behind 1BR knows exactly what movie audiences are expecting and effortlessly baits and switches the viewer into something so much better. I’ll admit that I did not initially know where this movie was going at first and was pleasantly surprised at the way the story progressed. 1BR’s commitment to gradual world-building leads to the execution of an immersive story with a very satisfying ending. I appreciated that this arc plays out in a non-traditional yet full-circle way that ties up most loose ends without giving away all the mysteries.
One of 1BR’s many prominent strengths is the casting of many solid actors to play a variety of colorful and well-crafted characters. The motivations behind each member of the community are unique and feel realized beyond one singular need for their desires. It grounds 1BR in realism within its universe and makes for a more compelling watch. Speaking of which, Nicole Brydon Bloom gives an outstanding performance as Sarah. Bloom pivots from naivety to tenacity to vulnerability with finesse as she takes the audience on Sarah’s journey to confidence, self-discovery, and survival. The complexity of Sarah is a deeply underrated aspect to this nasty little gem and makes the film feel more gratifying of a watch.
The lighting, ambiance, and use of color in 1BR amplifies its themes while still maintaining a sleek aesthetic. I appreciate the use of dull colors and harsh lighting when Sarah is alone versus the warmth and color used when Sarah is in the community. I’ll go more into the themes later but it really highlights the horrors of community isolation, which is central to the film’s conflict. Outside of moments like this, the cinematography and score are pretty standard for indie horror. This is not meant as a dig, because at the end of the day, it works! That is what matters most, to me anyway.
From a technical standpoint, 1BR is executed quite nicely. I enjoyed the sequences that show the passing of time. They feel very disorienting and surreal. It almost felt like I was there experiencing it with Sarah. The effects work, while sparse, is realistic. One particularly scene involving a wall is well executed, and stomach-churning for that matter. I also enjoyed 1BR’s use of sound. Metal noises at night, earplugs muffling sound, and the all too familiar use of sirens makes for an audibly engaging film experience.
Well-put-together, consistent, and structurally different than most films with similar plots, 1BR is an example of indie horror filmmaking done right. I applaud Marmor for crafting something as dark, intense, and fun as 1BR. It shows Marmor’s potential in the future of horror and film in general. I appreciated the even tone and gradual progression of the story. My only real complaint is that the middle lags a bit for me, but otherwise I think 1BR is an exceptionally solid indie effort. What I loved most about this film is how much it caught me off-guard. I feel like I cannot say it enough, but I did not expect what I got from 1BR. And I am so thankful for the team behind 1BR for giving me that feeling.
1BR brings up many interesting ideas about community, identity, and surveillance. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory I found myself captivated by the conflict created by the apartment community. The community prides itself on mutual aid while being deeply averse to independence and self-preservation. This is at odds with Sarah’s basic desire of making a name for herself and realizing her dreams. This conflict in a horror setting is refreshing as it brings up many criticisms against internet culture, the state of mental health in society, and the consequences of reckless individualism. Surveillance as a theme pops up repeatedly but doesn’t feel as meaty as the concept of community and preservation. It certainly adds to the horror element of always being watched and incorporates it in a modern way.
I am so glad that I went against my initial cool reaction to 1BR’s trailer and gave it a chance. 1BR is easily one of my favorite horror films of 2020 and I cannot wait to put it on my “Best of” list at the end of the year. 1BR is a great movie that had me on the edge of my seat in dread and anticipation at what would happen next. The concept, once it is clarified, is absolutely terrifying to me and actually makes my skin crawl more than most antagonists in horror ever will. I rented 1BR at full price after just moving into a new place, which probably got me more in the mood but I digress, and I would do it again! Now that it is on Netflix, you have absolutely no excuse not to check out this creepy hidden treasure of a horror film.
Overall Score? 7.5/10