Creating a kind and caring community that would make Mr. Rogers proud is the goal of one apartment complex in 1BR, a brand new Horror-Thriller that arrives to Digital on Friday, April 24th, 2020, thanks to Dark Sky Films. Hello, neighbor!
Aspiring costume designer Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom: The Affair series, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit series) is trying to start a new life in Los Angeles. At an Open House at the affordable luxury apartments of Asilo Del Mar, she immediately falls in love with the welcoming and friendly faces throughout the building, particularly the eccentric Miss Stanhope (Susan Davis: Pippi Longstocking 1969, WarGames 1983). When she finds herself chosen over hundreds of other candidates, Sarah cannot help but embrace manager Jerry (Taylor Nichols: Metropolitan 1990, Jurassic Park III 2001) as he welcomes her into the family.
Soon Sarah is settling into her new digs, trading flirty smiles with her neighbor Brian (Giles Matthey: Jobs 2013, Ford v Ferrari 2019), and even making friends at work—with a fiery co-worker named Lisa (Celeste Sully: Roommate(s) series, Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart TV movie 2016). Just as her life is beginning to shine bright, a series of cacophonous sounds ignite the night, and soon after she discovers an intruder in her apartment. What follows is a whole new perspective on life and the power of community—but does the end result justify the means?
Clocking in at 90 minutes, 1BR is a feature-length debut for talented Writer-Director David Marmor (The Texture of Love short 1999, Love & Other Unstable States of Mind short 2010). The film also features the acting talents of Clayton Hoff (Truth Be Told series, Shameless series), Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story series, Wizard School Dropout series), Earnestine Phillips (NYPD Blue series, Here Comes the Boom 2012), Andrea Gabriel (Lost series, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 2012), Alan Blumenfeld (WarGames 1983, Heroes series), Curtis Webster (This Is Us series, Mister America 2019), and many more.
An intriguing entry into the Horror-Thriller field, 1BR tackles the topic of community, mixes in some cringe-worthy body horror moments, along with that always eerie idea that Big Brother is watching, tosses in a dab of brainwashing, and bam! You’ve got a film full of tension that, while slow-moving, sets a disturbing tone from nearly its first moments. It does this with its wonderful score by Ronen Landa (The Pact 2012, At the Devil’s Door 2014), a witty attention to detail (translate “Asilo Del Mar”), and a magnificent cast.
As the central figure Sarah, Bloom is allowed to develop her character fully throughout the picture’s run time. She begins as a meek, soft-spoken young woman who simply wants to escape her old life, but through her struggles, she taps into her inner-strength and is able to break free, as well as to laugh at the ludicrous absurdity of her situation. Then there’s blunt firecracker Lisa, the entire opposite of Sarah and the perfect foil to Bloom’s lead. In this, Sully provides the fire that Sarah lacks, offering a character that, at times, feels a lot more relatable than Bloom’s meek-minded Sarah—at least for some of us.
As the suave, flirty guy next door and one of Sarah’s first new friends, Matthey provides a performance that is initially alluring. Because of this, as viewers we easily understand how she was drawn into this particular community. Coupled with the eccentric and adorable Miss Stanhope, portrayed by the glowing Davis, the pair provide the initial impetus for Sarah’s trust in this bizarrely welcoming apartment complex. Meanwhile, Nichols’ Jerry is a bit creepy from the start, a little eager to urge Sarah to fill out an application instead of allowing her to flee out the door of the open house.
Of course, in addition to the film’s wonderful cast, it doesn’t hurt that as the story begins to show its most sadistic side, viewers are still in the dark as to exactly what is unfolding and why. In this, 1BR plays off the idea that the unknown is often far more disturbing, an idea that is shared in films such as 2008’s The Strangers. Unlike the aforementioned, this movie-going experience eventually provides a “why,” and a reason that is only that much more haunting.
In the end, all of these myriad parts come together to formulate a story that has a lot to say about the psychology of mind control, along with elements of social psychology and group dynamics. Each of us wants to belong to something greater than ourselves, and Sarah is no different, but she likely never thought that she’d be called to embrace selflessness in this manner. Ask yourself: does a well-intentioned end result justify sadistic means? Whatever your answer, 1BR is a Horror-Thriller with plenty to say if you’re willing to listen. For this, Cryptic Rock gives 1BR 4 of 5 stars.