For many people, our home is our sanctuary (especially during these current times), and the search for one can be a drastic undertaking, particularly in a new city.
Picking up everything you own and moving thousands of miles from your friends and family to pursue your dreams is scary enough.
David Marmor’s brilliant thriller 1BR takes this idea and does what horror films do best, it runs with it into disturbing territory!
Won’t You Be Their Neighbor…?
The film begins with Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) attending an open house at an apartment complex. The manager Jerry (Taylor Nichols) seems kind and genuine, and the residents emit a deep sense of community and friendliness.
So she’s absolutely thrilled when she gets the apartment, but not all is what it seems. Each night, Sarah is awakened by loud banging noises outside.
And just when we the audience think we’re in store for another paint by numbers haunted dwelling movie, 1BR takes a hard left turn into grisly and grotesque sadism!
Minor Spoilers Ahead
Mr. Jigsaw’s Neighborhood?
We come to find that this community is run under a strict philosophy of obedience and selflessness, one which often comes at the expense of personal freedom and comfort.
What she initially thought was just a friendly group of neighbors turns out to be more a cult in the likes of Midsommar. Sarah is subjected to brutal physical and psychological torture in an attempt to initiate her.
She is then forced to choose between giving in ceasing the pain or maintaining her own autonomy and independence but dying. Nicole Brydon Bloom’s layered performance really helps to sell it all.
She’s a protagonist that’s very easy to root for, because she doesn’t make an array of dumb decisions like many of her horror counterparts.
And while Jerry is trying to turn her, we’re never quite sure if she’s actually “drinking the kool-aid” or just playing them to win their trust and confidence.
Even after harsh and violent “conditioning” we can also see a spark in her that never truly dies. Bloom was even nominated for Best Actress in a Feature at the Nightmares Film Festival in 2019!
1BR’s greatest strength is the vast tonal shift it makes about 1/3 into the runtime. So many horror films fall victim to just recycling the same tropes without ever doing something new or creative, and this film’s foray into cults and brutality were a welcome subversion.
It definitely has its share of gleefully brutal WTF moments, which remain the highlight of the entire movie.
Honestly, the only real issue is that once Sarah’s conditioning is completed, the pace slows down quite a bit.
But this is mostly limited to the third act. And the ending itself (which we won’t spoil) is still exciting and leaves us more paranoid than when the movie first started.
Overall, 1BR is a tense and compelling thriller that explores compelling themes of individuality vs conformity, as well as the ethics and morality of the ends justifying the means for the sake of the group.
While it may begin seeming like a typical haunted house (or apartment) story, it is anything but, and certainly worth checking out. Either way, it will inspire you to do your research when looking for your next home!