The ever-changing LA set thriller 1BR celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival where Montreal’s cult obsessed were shown a nightmare vision of one girl’s struggle to make it in the big city. written and directed by David Marmor, 1BR stars Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Taylor Nichols (Jurassic Park III), Giles Matthey (Once Upon A Time), and Nicole Brydon Bloom as the cult’s new recruit.
Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she finds a dream apartment in a complex straight of 90’s primetime television. Everyone knows each other’s names, they get together for BBQ parties around the pool, and they look out for one another. It’s the warmest welcome she could ask for. But after the sun goes down, and strange noises begin to keep her up at night, Sarah begins to suspect that her neighbour’s kind nature is less than sincere, and she has found herself surrounded on all sides by people that want more from her rent cheques and a polite Hello.
“…a nightmare vision of one girl’s struggle to make it in the big city.”
1BR, in a lot of ways, is your quintessential “small-town girl packs up up her bags to leave her life behind and make it in Hollywood” story. Her family tries to talk her out of it, she doubts that she has what it takes, and (the biggest problem of all) she can’t find a decent apartment. We’ve all been there. And while we all have our own too-good-to-be-true horror stories we take out after a few drinks with friends, yours definitely pales in comparison to Sarah’s.
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There a few interesting touches in the beginning of 1BR that really address how strange apartment hunting can be. Light switches that don’t control anything, patches on the wall that look significantly sloppier than the standard the rest of the property has been held to, and strange noises in the middle of the night that no one else seems aware of, or concerned by. Large portions of the 2nd half of the movie take those seemingly innocuous things and snowball them to the paranoid extremes your mind can wander into late at night. What if those sounds are actually meant to deprive you of sleep and weaken your mental state? What if that light switch is powering a tiny camera hidden somewhere in the apartment? That attention to the real-life weirdness of moving under duress helps establish a good sense of unease about Sarah’s new home, but it’s the evolution of that anxiety that is the strong suit of 1BR.
Every 30 minutes of the movie feels like a new subgenre of horror. In the opening, before things go south, we are in an Ira Levin-esque exploration of quirky new neighbors that may or may not be hiding something from us. Maybe our protagonist is just a little shy having moved to a city where she knows absolutely no one…but maybe everyone really is staring at her like fresh meat, ready to tear into her at any minute. Act 2 comes in hard and fast, promising every torture porn movies from the early 2000s had before suddenly (and surprisingly) leaving that all behind for a deeper exploration of the community Sarah is now unwillingly apart of. The shifts in story were what interested me most about 1BR and while they weren’t as jarring or out-of-left-field as Richard Shepard’s The Perfection (2019), I found that I wanted to spend more time in any one of them. I like slow-burn paranoia thrillers, I still kind of like “torture-porn” (despite the name) and I like cults. Each of the pieces of this macabre mosaic, however, made me want to rewind the tape and spend more time exploring the world I had just left behind.
1BR is a movie made for anyone casually obsessed with cults. Especially Los Angeles-specific cults. The comparisons to Scientology are clear, and there was definitely an appreciation from fellow LA-based critics, that live right next door to some of the madness on display in the film. Unfortunately, that just didn’t hit home the same way with me. I personally get bogged down by culty rhetoric and fanatical “preaching” but it’s a horror that burrows deep into a lot of other people. And to be fair, it’s that same rhetoric and fanaticism that makes for a solid ending to the movie. Although 1BR spent a little more time showing me what was behind door #3 than throwing me into that room, it’s still worth crediting the team for making 3 films wrapped into 1, with a single location that can feel welcoming, claustrophobic, and of another world in a short period of time.
“…a movie made for anyone casually obsessed with cults”
1BR celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Thursday, July 18. The Fantasia Film Festival runs until August 1, 2019 in beautiful Montreal, Canada. Click HERE to check out all of our continued coverage of the festival, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see silly photos, immediate film reactions, and the occasional photo of lunch.