An impressive psychological horror/thriller from writer/director David Marmor, that will make you ask a new list of questions when viewing possible new homes.
I am so glad I didn’t watch Apartment 1BR when I was flat-hunting last year.
The title 1BR refers to a one-bedroom apartment, which is all young Sarah needs (along with her temp job and her cat) when she is setting out on a new life in Los Angeles. She has fallen out with her father, and is hoping for a new sense of belonging when her application to rent a small apartment within a large but friendly complex is accepted. Turns out to not be quite the dream home she had anticipated.
The virtually unknown Nicole Brydon Bloom plays Sarah, and she is perfectly cast: Sarah has the determination to be independent, even if she doesn’t quite have the confidence, and Bloom walks that line most deftly. She comes across as sheltered without being weak, which is great: a poorer actor could have made this role a little pathetic. I thought I’d seen a couple of faces before, but none of the cast are big names as such, being mostly taken from TV dramas. The couple which might ring a bell are Naomi Grossman from American Horror Story and Susan Davis from sixties dramas such as Dr Kildare and The Fugitive; but these both play pretty minor roles in Apartment 1BR. Apart from Sarah, the next two large roles are Brian (Giles Matthey), the “hot neighbour”, and Jerry (Taylor Nichols), the complex manager. Not that I’m saying this is a women-against-men story; not at all: this is a story about Sarah being alone in the crowd.
The building is clearly a character in its own right in 1BR, but – like Sarah – we don’t get to know the whole of it at once. It’s very neatly introduced; for the most part, we only see the areas she does, and knowledge of its interior gradually expands as hers does. David Bolen’s cinematography is a little different for each area, reflecting the way Sarah feels about the community and her involvement with it.
1BR is a psychological horror; but beyond that, I don’t want to tell you much about what to expect. When I started watching it, I knew it was about a housing complex, but didn’t know if it was going to go in the direction of Sleep Tight, Rear Window, High Rise, Ladda Land, Suburbicon, or Vivarium. Fortunately, it turned out to be a story all of its own, and – at least for me – surprising and unpredictable.
David Marmor wrote and directed 1BR (his first feature film) and the style is a lovely blend of surrealism, reality and satire: just as Sarah wonders initially if she is imagining things, there’s a lot about this little community that seem unbelievable to us viewers, but only just. There’s just a small step from a tenants’ code of conduct to a full rule book. And it’s only just satire too; 1BR isn’t terribly pointed, but it is definitely suspenseful, and goes from intriguing to tough and surprising without any warning.
In many ways, 1BR is “just right”, as horror films go: it’s the right length (90 minutes); there’s no slow introduction, but neither is it hasty; there are no annoying jump scares or over-dramatic music, and yet the suspense is bang on; the acting is all sound; there is not too much violence, but just enough to make you question what a person can handle (like Gerald’s Game, let’s say). It doesn’t have a complex or pretentious plot to follow, but neither is it light in any way. This is a film for many lovers of horror or edgy thrillers to enjoy. Oh and I yelled out loud a couple of times (but didn’t groan at all).
1BR was gripping, intriguing, and damn near every character was engaging. And there are a couple of things I want to warn you about, but don’t want to give anything away, so just: be warned.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.