Directed by David Marmor
Written by David Marmor
Starring Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols
In the late nineties, Ondi Timoner’s documentary We Live in Public showed the inner workings of an experimental society in New York created by internet pioneer Josh Harris. Part sociological exercise and part art performance, the theme was the loss of privacy in the internet age. In David Marmor’s 1BR, the theme could easily be seen as the loss of self in the age of selfishness. Both films show what can happen when the individual is under constant surveillance; 1BR questions whether it’s a good or a bad thing to be told how to act. Sometimes, what seems like the perfect situation can wind up being a situation you’d kill to get out of.
Wanting to reinvent herself in the star-making, soul killing city of Los Angeles, Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) stumbles across a quaint apartment complex hidden away from the dregs of society, and there just happens to be a vacancy. Upon moving in, she has an innocent flirtation with Bobby (Giles Matthey), the cute neighbor down the hall and an unsettling run in with a creeper named Lester (Clayton Hoff). Both encounters encapsulate the overall vibe of the complex itself: it’s enticing and welcoming but there’s something unsettling going on within the walls. Once Sarah starts hearing strange noises in the middle of the night, you might think that you know where 1BR is heading but, it turns out, there’s nothing hidden underneath the floorboards and no ghost of a previous tenant offering clues. Instead, imagine that your perfect first apartment suddenly becomes a black site at some undisclosed location. Then, you might start realizing where this is heading.
Surely, 1BR has a bit more in common with cult-centric films like Ari Aster’s Midsommar or Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation than apartment horror like Polanski’s The Tenant or the underseen Spanish thriller Sleep Tight. The villain here is the surveillance state and how the concept of communitarianism can become dangerously warped if in order to become a productive member you have to be beaten and broken down first. It would be like living in Walden Two if B.F. Skinner was constantly running around trying to kill you instead of teaching you how to garden. As the story expands and Sarah begins to acclimate, there’s also a parallel between the people in the apartment complex and property management in general, where both the person and the dwellings they live in become indistinguishable.
In the same way Adam Driver finds out in The Report that there’s no science behind torture, Sarah eventually realizes this as well. Whether she was ever fully indoctrinated or not, the graphic violence she endures eventually explodes until she can no longer be controlled or contained. Ironically, the hatred the community has for the individual leads Sarah to find herself again. Only now, she hates everyone else and is willing to kill for the right to be imperfect and alone. All the violence in 1BR comes in all the right places and the right forms. Beginning with more militaristic psychological and physical torture to rebrand Sarah, it morphs into a much more, dare I say, fun display of randomness. Then, the bloody bits fit more in line with what horror fans love to watch. Revenge served up cold.
It won’t get made, but there’s definitely a setup for a sequel but what would they call it? Condo? 2BR/1BA? Wait! Sarah, has a twin and it’s called Property Sisters.
1BR premieres on VOD today, 4/24.
1BR actually has more in common with horror films finding danger out in the countryside instead of more claustrophobic apartment horror where isolated insanity is usually the predictable outcome.