One girl, one room, four stars

Lead actor : Nicole Brydon Bloom and Taylor Nichols.

Warden: David Marble

You know what I hate about the places I’ve lived for the last 24 years?  Neighbors.  And they don’t mind, the couple on the other side respects him, just like the old woman who lives next door.  Anyway, the guy in front of me has a corner lottery I can do without, and the people right next to me?  It’s time for her to go.

And it’s not just for her, I say that every time someone else comes near.  Because I don’t want people getting that close.  So when I started looking at 1BR by writer/director David Marmor, the main character Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom, The Affair) moved into her new apartment and met all the neighbors. There is a community meeting where all the people who live in his complex are present and everyone says hello… No, I’m fine.  This is definitely not where I want to live.

Sarah, on the other hand, is new in Los Angeles, because she left her father and his new wife to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer, and she looks nothing like me.  If a new colleague, Lisa, suggested introducing Sarah to everyone in the office, I’d tell her: I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. When Sarah, Brian’s new neighbor, invited me to dinner, I already had plans that weren’t really planned, I just didn’t want to go.

And then we get to the second act and reveal the truth about this apartment complex, and that’s where the real horror starts for me personally.

I don’t know how to get into the heart of 1BR without ruining it completely.  But maybe you don’t want to read this review (?) and watch the movie instead, because it’s a good movie and probably even better if you go there without knowing what’s going on, like I did.

And that doesn’t mean that this knowledge is going to ruin the film for you, it’s still a very well executed and well played film, very fascinating and interesting.  But still… Do you want to ruin it before you see it?

Okay, if you insist, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Spoilers ahead.

It turns out that housing is a cult that puts the community first, through a set of four rules that I wish I could remember, but I can’t, so forgive me if I stress this: Community.  There are no secrets in the community and everyone contributes.  The goal of this community is to change the world by becoming ALL parts of the same community.  But Sarah has to take care of him first, and she’s not ready to give up her newfound independence.

So we have to break it.

The whole second act of 1BR, Sarah’s indoctrination, unfolds like an editing scene, a long editing scene that stretches over a period of time of which we don’t even know how long it will last, but which is done in a way that doesn’t seem light or sloppy.  I wish it was a little more violent, but when I say it myself, believe me, it’s bad enough that Sarah’s been exposed.  But it’s a movie, I think they could have done more.

And here’s the problem with stories like this where the protagonist is the one being brainwashed: As spectators, we know that we cannot REALLY abandon our heroine to satisfactorily close the story.  The members of the sect are the antagonists, which means that in order to REALLY involve Sarah in what they’re selling, she also becomes the antagonist of another story, and that’s how you meet the characters you love.  So it is clear that we, the viewers, cannot believe that Sarah has given up.

We’re supposed to believe she’s playing the game until she finds the right time to run, and unfortunately Marble and Bloom give us enough to be absolutely sure that’s exactly what she’s doing.  It’s very good for Sarah, but it gives her a chance to blow off some steam.  As if we ever thought Obi Wan was in real danger in the run-up to Star Wars…….. Of course not. He’s alive and well in episode four, that’s for sure.  The same principle, Sarah is the heroine of this story, it is clear that they will not really brainwash the main character.

We think she’s more likely to play along until she gets the chance, and then run at night.

But it’s in those final moments that Marble plays an ace up his sleeve, giving you an ending that you certainly didn’t see coming, but plays so well that I wish I could invent it so I could predict it and show us Sarah rediscovering the power with which she made history, the power we thought she had lost.  It’s a beautiful moment and I like the way it’s captured, a nice image to go out with.

The trailers I’ve seen for 1BR didn’t give much, which is great for a story like this, but those same trailers have touted the film as a kind of new cult classic.  I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a film I enjoyed and I have no problem recommending it.  I’m not sure I would necessarily call it HORROR, but it’s definitely a thriller with good excitement and a few moments of what just happened.

1BR is currently streamed on Netflix.


C. Dennis Moore is the author of more than 60 short stories and novels in the genre of speculative fiction. More recent versions can be found in the anthologies Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Arise, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways. His novels include Revelations, Angel Hill, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, Flip.

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