So cults are really in right now, like super popular. I don’t necessarily mean with the cult members themselves, although one would assume being a part of a cult and being interested in it would have to go hand in hand. 1BR, directed by David Marmor, takes a big swing at two significant political issues, affordable housing, and Hollywood groupthink. The first issue is a national concern lots of cities are dealing with. The second issue a little more localized but deliciously enjoyable. That is more or less how I feel about 1BR. It is a sharp film with lots to say, and it’s presented in a way that is deliciously enjoyable. Don’t forget to pay your deposit because once you start 1BR, there is no way to get out of that lease.
The story is very simple. Sarah is a struggling actress in the general Los Angeles area. She is desperate to find a cheap place to live that offers affordable rent and relative proximity to her job and other important things in her life. She spies an advertisement for a cheap one-bedroom apartment right where she wants to be. Urged to attend an open house, she meets a number of other folks who live in the complex and falls in love with the apartment and the people but is almost certain she will get beaten out by one of the hundreds of other people applying for the apartment. Besides, she has a cat, and they have a strict no pets policy.
Full stop. No more spoilers because the less you know about this Peyton Place meets Jonestown, the better. What follows is a pretty good lesson in behavioral psychology. Complete with Skinner boxes, pain response, and a little Stockholm Syndrome. Sarah, played with a quiet earnestness by Nicole Brydon Bloom, is immediately likable. If she weren’t so nice, so kind, we wouldn’t root for her, and the whole movie would fall apart. The script doesn’t give her a huge range of emotional movement, but she makes the best out of it. Taylor Nichols playing a diabolically calm Jerry, carries the evil vibe of this movie. Without his leadership in the film and on the set, the movie does not have the creepy vibe it’s able to pull off.
At its core, the movie explores just how much we are willing to do to fit in, to make it. Does the film have any plausibility if L.A. had affordable housing? Hell no. It is a movie that capitalizes on some Hollywood motifs without actually being in Hollywood. 1BR is really a movie about being a big fish in a small pond in an even larger ocean. I am a sucker for a film that could very easily be turned into a stage play, and 1BR is that type of movie.
If I had any concerns with the movie, it might be that the middle act of this movie drags just a bit. It explodes out of the gate and finishes with a flurry, so the relatively slow middle feels the way it does mostly because of how its juxtaposed and not necessarily because of its pacing. The cast is small and tight, the setting even smaller. It builds tension through those mechanics so that by the end of the film, the audience finally notices we are all holding our breath. Speaking of the ending.
Light Spoilers Ahead……..
Towards the end of the movie, there is a conversation about what happens after the leader of a cult is killed or defeated. As one who looks for politics in everything, the idea you can escape something or someone only to be confronted by their legacy is perhaps the scariest idea of them all. As we face the legacy of the Trump administration, perhaps the most frightening to left-leaning individuals will be a number of judicial appointments that will impact the country far after Trump has left office by vote or by impeachment. Just as Sarah must face the idea, the threat is perhaps far bigger than her small community; we all need to face the reality that our neighbors, friends, and colleagues are probably all playing a long game we were not aware of. That is some pretty scary shit.
1BR opened today as part of the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and will hopefully get the wider release it deserves.
Editor note: It is available on Shudder now! Click here for your free 30-day trial by entering code Signal.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.