For those searching for a hidden gem among all the new movie offerings vying for attention during our nationwide quarantine, you’d be doing your horror-loving self a solid by checking out 1BR. It’s particularly effective viewing if your Covid-19 self-isolating dwelling happens to be a crowded apartment complex populated with tenants who could quite possibly be serial killers. You know the type; the overly friendly strangers whose smiles look predatory and who stare just a little too long as you walk by.
Our heroine in 1BR is Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom), a fish out of water new arrival to Los Angeles. She’s landed a temp job and can’t believe her good fortune when she stumbles across a tidy apartment complex hosting an open house. There are plenty of potential renters vying for the chance to snag the open one bedroom, but somehow Sarah manages to outwit, outlast, and outplay the Survivor version of LA apartment hunting. Okay, so all she really needed to do was draw the interest of the apartment manager, Jerry (Taylor Nichols). But given the lack of affordable, quality apartments in Southern California, being named winner of a one bedroom in a prime location is almost as satisfying as winning a reality competition series.
Sarah’s selected to join the apartment community and immediately connects with an elderly neighbor, Miss Stanhope (Susan Davis). She also hits it off with the good-looking bachelor who seems to show up whenever she’s got a heavy box to carry. She and Brian (Giles Matthey) get flirty but Sarah’s harboring a secret and can’t let him inside her next place. Her secret? She’s moving her cat into a no pets allowed complex. The horror!
Grateful for all the friendly faces who welcome her to their “family,” Sarah feels as though her decision to upend her life and move to the City of Angels has been validated. If only the pipes would stop rattling at night, all would be rosy for the pretty young LA newbie.
Soon, the annoying noises at night turn out to be the least of Sarah’s problems. Apartment living quickly flips from being the source of pride and independence to a terrifyingly nightmarish prison from which she has almost no chance of escaping with her sanity intact.
Nicole Brydon Bloom’s Sarah blossoms from a quiet, unassuming young woman into a warrior channeling her inner strength over the swiftly paced 90-minute running time. Bloom’s terrific in the role and has the audience on her side, cheering for her innocent and sort of naïve character to realize no one’s riding in to save her.
Writer-director David Marmor makes his feature film directorial debut with this 2020 release and does a great job of ratcheting up the tension and horror leading up to the film’s unsettling conclusion. Marmor’s script teases out little bits and pieces of info on why Sarah’s enduring such shocking circumstances before finally showing all its cards during the final act. The transformation in Sarah as she grasps the full horror of what’s going on at the apartment complex is a satisfying payoff to this gruesome horror story.
1BR‘s an unsettling and even at times uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, it’s also a well-executed thriller that explores the world of crazy cults while dishing up some surprising twists.
Release Date: April 24 (on digital/VOD)
Running Time: 90 minutes