FANTASIA FESTIVAL moves into an unsettling 1BR and won’t let you go!
DIRECTOR: David Marmor
WRITER: David Marmor
CAST: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Alan Blumenfeld, Susan Davis, Naomi Grossman, Clayton Hoff, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols, Earnestine Phillips, Celeste Sully
A young woman finally finds the perfect apartment in Los Angeles, only things soon become less perfect when weird happenings start to occur… and this perfect place isn’t exactly what she signed up for. 1BR is a brutal and unsettling psychological thriller that stays with you and makes you rethink your concept of finding a good home.
Directed by David Marmor, in his debut feature, 1BR is a disturbing and unrelenting flick. It centres around Sarah (played with such perfection by Nicole Brydon Bloom), a hopeful new resident of Los Angeles. She moved from a small town to live out her dream to be a costume seamstress, but her current place is small, noisy, and not ideal. Luckily she has a chance to move into the beautiful Asilo Del Mar Apartments, a fancy complex with friendly neighbours, regular BBQs and a sense of community! But most of all, the perfect 1 Bedroom apartment.
It seems pretty exclusive and there’s a long line of applicants, so she feels discouraged, but she immediately connects with the community after helping an elderly member, and soon finds herself moving in! Only she leaves out the part of having a cat, which was probably not a good idea, because this isn’t a pet friendly establishment. And that’s when things take a sudden turn…
Things aren’t quite what she expected. The otherwise peaceful dwelling has weird and creepy sounds keeping her awake at night. She regularly receives anonymous death threats about her secret cat. And that one creepy neighbour seems to have his eye on her….
And from there things just get weirder. Much weirder and fucked up. So much weird and that I really wish I could elaborate on, but doing so would do a grave disservice to how perfectly this film is laid out. It starts as one thing and then becomes something else entirely. It grabs you, forces you to be uncomfortable, then sees if you can make it out intact.
It’s quite a ride. The tension and suspense are right up there with the greats in the psychological horror and thriller genres. Comparisons to Hitchcock are certainly there. There’s also the inevitable comparisons to other creepy apartment films, like Polanski’s THE TENANT and Argento’s INFERNO, with a little bit of Orwell’s 1984 thrown in for good measure, but this film is no copy of a previous great. It does its own thing and achieves greatness of its own.
Nicole Brydon Bloom gets put through the ringer in what surely was a difficult role to pull off, but ends up being a very memorable. Through a combination of top notch directing, clever editing, and said gripping performance, Sarah lives through absolute hell. It’s quite the character arc, going from a shy girl, to broken and helpless, to having to fight back, all while coping with what little sanity remains, trying to piece back and reassemble that drive and willpower. It’s a very moving portrayal.
Another performance of note is Jerry, played by Jerry Taylor Nichols (who’s long varied career includes everything from METROPOLITAN to BOILER ROOM to every television show you can think of). Jerry runs the Asilo Del Mar and is the main face of the community. Keeping everyone together and deciding who gets in. He’s the fatherly figure to everyone… with a few secrets of his own. It’s a great and layered role that just gets better and better as the film progresses.
This film is a great example of “things aren’t what they seem”, with multiple characters often shifting about, and being not exactly what you thought. Most of all, the apartment complex itself, a character in it’s own right, isn’t exactly what you thought. One of the most effective parts of this film is the lack of many locations, mostly focusing on the Asilo Del Mar. The minimal locations further hits home the themes of isolation within a community.
Other important themes that get tackled are the cult of the self-help world, blind faith and mob mentality, conquering one’s demons, and redemption. There’s a lot to tackle here, and quite a few shocking moments that’ll leave the audience unnerved. I heard at least two audible gasps, but quite honestly, that could have been from myself. There’s a definite catharsis at foot if one ever had to deal with feelings of being trapped or isolation or mistrust.
This film takes a lot of chances, and isn’t afraid to get its hands bloody getting there. There are some many intense scenes. And it doesn’t pull any punches. It has a lot to say about L.A. culture, and more to say about people a little too eager to help you out, even when you aren’t asking for said help.
It’s a wonderful find of a film that will leave you thinking about it long after it’s done. You’ll be uneasy, uncomfortable, and a little cautious… and probably double checking your lease when you get home.