Nicole Brydon Bloom … Sarah
Written and directed by David Marmor
CS Reviews 1BR
1BR is one of those low-budget thrillers that caters to our modern appetite for deplorable human behavior but ultimately frustrates by refusing to push its admittedly whacky concept to the brink. There’s a hilarious dark comedy buried somewhere in David Marmor’s script, but the film never strays from its preposterously somber tone; and is more content basking in predictable horror tropes than charting a course towards more appropriate Texas Chain Saw levels of absurdity.
The plot sees a young woman named Sarah struggling with her life in LA. She’s one of those depressed gen Xers who hates her father and yearns to make it on her own in the big city, even if her emotionally fragile personality lacks the necessary umph to propel her beyond a bland day-to-day office job. To her surprise, Sarah manages to land a room at a cozy apartment complex packed with overtly friendly citizens, a helpful landlord and a neighbor so perfect you’d swear he was up to something.
As it turns out, this particular apartment complex is home to a bunch of friggin’ weirdos attempting to create the perfect utopian community. Sure, said utopia involves the nailing of hands to a wall and enduring brainwashing sessions by way of gunpoint on a day-to-day basis — but, hey, it’s home! This community sets their eyes on Sarah who must adapt to the program or die. There’s no way out, you see? The friendly landlord Jerry holds the only means of escape — the key to the front door — and takes the necessary steps to sever all of Sarah’s communication with the outside world. He even cuts her phone subscription!
Oh, and that friendly neighbor? Turns out he’s actually not a nice guy and really just a weird combination of Dwight Schrute, Louis Tully and one of those evil bastards from Children of the Damned.
Will Sarah ever escape this twisted, hellish prison? Or will she give in and learn to respect its bizarre ideology? And what will she do with her one-eyed husband-to-be who submissively offers this advice: “This our life. Nothing can change that. But it can be a good life.” Sure.
Everyone in the pic works hard to make the material work. Nicole Brydon Bloom is perfection as Sarah, a difficult role that requires her to emote a lot or pretend not to emote. Yet, the actress’ performance never feels overstuffed even amidst objectively preposterous circumstances. Taylor Nichols oozes sleaze as Jerry the landlord, whose idea of a good time is to gather the neighbors for some friendly manslaughter followed by a fun-filled BBQ around the pool. If only the script weren’t so in love with its concept this might have made for a truly unusual motion picture along the lines of Ari Aster’s Midsommar.
As is, 1BR offers more ideas than most films in its respective genre and does a pretty good job wringing tension from its admittedly unique premise. The film does entertain thanks to sharp direction and the aforementioned performances, and — for what it’s worth —probably stands as the best thriller to ever be set in a dingy apartment complex.
And, hey, it has the balls to roast a cat in an oven. That’s got to count for something.