Down on her luck, while trying to break into the (presumably) competitive Hollywood costume design racket, Sarah miraculously finds her dream apartment. The tenants are friendly, the price affordable, the space clean. It’s all perfect or, as these movies tend to go, too perfect.
Soon, the honeymoon period starts fading. Not only do the pipes make noises only she can hear, but the mood of her fellow dwellers takes a turn for the worse when they discover she against all covenants smuggled in her cat.
Some people are allergic, reads an anonymous note, crassly addressing her as a
selfish bitch. The cat’s fate is similarly harsh, and Sarah learns that her apartment is a cell in a cult indoctrination compound.
1BR starts off appropriately eerie, with echoes of Roman Polanski’s The Tenant. The juxtaposition of Sarah’s mental health and the complex’s foreboding dread creates a sense of paranoia that lasts for a good twenty minutes. Then, when the brainwashing starts, the film starts stumbling. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes a drag, and never is it as clever as it wants to be.
The latter is, in many ways, the movie’s downfall. I can forgive Nicole Brydon Bloom’s blasé Sarah – not a bad performance, as much as a forgettable one – and some lapses in logic, but the build to an unsurprising-surprise ending does not help the story’s flow. Early on, we are told the cult is part of a larger organization in a scene I can only assume director David Marmor forgot about. Why else would the
twist ending reveal it yet again in an overly dramatic fashion?
Still, there are things to like about 1BR. Taylor Nichols portrays cult leader Jerry with swagger and charisma, and Giles Matthey is a convincing second in command. The movie looks stylish, and camera angles are well-used to convey the early sense of paranoia. The reason why Sarah was picked to become a member – the actual twist – is clever, though strangely downplayed. 1BR can’t quite decide if it wants to play on the cult’s lore or the relationships of those within it. At ninety minutes, it doesn’t get the time to do either successfully.
It’s not an essential watch, 1BR, but it has its moments if you like a good cult yarn. If you read between the lines, you can make out a good Polanski-esque storyline. The Tenant aside, there is also a bit of Rosemary’s Baby tossed into the mix.
Plus, if having to socialize with your neighbors comes off as a chore, you might just find an extra ounce of creepiness within the movie’s confines.