Review: Psychological thriller '1BR' worth checking into
Courtesy of Malevolent Films
In the middle of a global pandemic and, to an extent, a housing market bubble - here comes the indie thriller “1BR” to give new psychological meaning to apartment hunting.
Enter Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) who’s just moved to Los Angeles county in the hopes of making her career aspirations a reality. (Don’t they all?) She needs a place to live, while also finding a way to get into college. Sarah is the archetype for every ambitious mid-twenties soul searcher trying to find a big break. Of course, securing an apartment is easier said than done, especially as Sarah has limited funds, but hope arises when she lands the ideal place to live: a space that’s walking distance to work and is affordable for her budget. There’s even a cute boy next door.
But there is one caveat to this dream complex. It’s owned and operated by a cult.
A cult that’s obsessed with making a symbolic and perfect community. They have a strict “No Pets” policy, and the group - known as CDE Properties - watches the premises 24/7. As for the induction process, converting newbies includes a laundry list of fun activities like: sleep deprivation, solitary, extreme pain etc. Sarah puts on a solid game face, trying her best to fake it while proving to her captors she’s one of them, which turns into an excellent showcase for Bloom who has to walk a tight balancing act.
Forced to endure the mental struggles often thrown at her while combating the psychological manipulation, eventually, it starts to break Sarah down and she begins to question if the CDE method has merit. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid!
First time writer/director David Marmor creates some tightly wound and elaborate sequences with next to nothing, turning a simple polygraph test with the CDE’s unofficial leader Jerry (Taylor Nichols) into a slick game of cat and mouse. He also crafts a textbook survival story around Sarah and Bloom is a wonderful muse for him to collaborate with. You do have to get over the hump of the film's inaugural thirty minutes, trusting the debut filmmaker that he’s not going to burn us.
There’s also a slew of cheesy and borderline cringe worthy performances that suggest an homage to the campy slasher genre but once the plot comes into focus, you start to understand where these folks are coming from. It didn’t always work for me, but for what “1BR” was trying to push - which is an artistic expression of fear and what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to be happy - some of those elements are easy to forgive.
And the final shot suggests Marmor has a solid career ahead of him in terms of psychological horror. Not since “The Invitation,” has a final sequence reshaped the entire scale and scope of what came before, making “1BR” not only a decent exercise in thrills, but a room that’s worth checking into.
1BR was released on VOD earlier this summer and is available to rent and purchase from various digital retailers. Check your listings.