Cults scare the shit out of me. Not because there’s anything purposely dreadful about them or the movies/documentaries made on them, but the fact that brainwashing someone can be as easy as switching buttons on a TV remote really gets to me. Personally, sitting through Riley Sterns’ ‘Faults‘ – a psychologically twisted dark comedy was incredibly unnerving for me. Similarly, the ambiguity with which Karyn Kusama’s ‘The Invitation‘ ends made me feel incomplete and disturbed. There’s nothing particularly scary about these films but the fact that a said protagonist is haunted and forced into doing things with a consequence that’s better than their present life can really leave the audience in splits. In David Marmor’s ingenious horror-thriller ‘1BR‘ this fear gets a twisted rendition.
Sarah is new to L.A. She is one of those runaways who just can’t take ‘being at home’ anymore. Having lost her mother and seeing a different side of her father are only points that have added to her distress. His overbearing and overprotective persona has made her realize that she has to make it on her own now. To support herself financially, she has taken up a temp job. Her shy, underconfident persona is often dealt with mistreatment from the bosses. A co-worker who we don’t get to know a lot about, constantly asks her to ‘give it back to them.’
Related to 1BR – In Fear : A Conscious effort to create Palpable Fear
On the other hand, we see her hunting for a perfect apartment that would support her dream of being a designer someday. To put it correctly – she needs some peace and quiet in her life because her Zolofts are not helping. Luckily, she stumbles onto a gated community that is as diverse and loving as a perfect home and surroundings could be. Reluctantly, she signs up for the lease but is sure that she won’t get a call back from the people in charge there. But since the film is titled ‘1BR‘ we are quite aware of the fact that she would. Thus, a call-back clues her into the fact that she finally has a well-rooted roof over her head.
There’s only but one rule for the new tenant – No pets allowed! Sarah, on the other hand, takes a risk and sneakily takes in her pet cat Giles; secretly wishing that no one would find out. Obviously, someone does and soon enough she starts getting threatening notes from someone. On having received such a warm welcome from the entire community that lives inside, Sarah is confused as to who could be the one angry at her. To add to her problems, loud noises that signal some kind of plumbing disaster is pushing her on the cusp of regretting her decision to take up the flat in the first place.
This is where the actual conflict of 1BR comes in. Talking about how exactly the plot plays with typical genre conventions to craft a smart horror-thriller will only ruin the experience. Rest assured, you will be surprised. David Marmor manages to make a thriller that uses two most commonly found things in typical horror films – the fear of the unknown and a sort of twisted home-invasion scenario to uplift his material out of the ordinary.
Also, Read – Possessor : ‘BFI-LFF’ Review – A fine future addition to the realm of cult cinema
Consider it as a mix of Peele’s Get Out, Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, and Aster’s Midsommar set in an apartment building. While not as subtext heavy as Get Out and Midsommar, nor as unpredictable as The Invitation, 1BR is still a pretty great time. There are interesting ideas thrown into the mix, uplifting the film every single time it corners itself into trouble. Nicole Brydon Bloom’s turn as Sarah is one of the major pluses here. She serves as the perfect kick for the drama to work upon. Her inability to get herself out of the mess she gets into is well-balanced with her overall stilted persona.
1BR works because it knows exactly when to cut out of a scenario that is running out of steam. It also keeps you second-guessing because the whole arc of a cult being involved gives it an extra edge. The ambiguous ending can be a little polarizing for the viewers who want their horror films to come to a conclusion that doesn’t give them post-viewing nightmares, but it leaves with a tease that makes it more memorable than it possibly would have. So, kudos to that too!
1BR Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes