Apartment hunting is a living nightmare. There’s simply no way around the fact that every facet of moving to a new space is meant to test our mental and physical fortitude as humans, looking to see just how much stress we can actually endure before settling into a place we can call our own. Apartment hunting in Los Angeles, however, is an entirely different beast altogether with competition and limited vacancies (despite the immense size of the city and its dwelling opportunities), and David Marmor’s 1BR understands this with a wonderful clarity. Then, after all is said and done, 1BR poses the hard question: what if, after all this time and energy, your endurance test was only just beginning?
Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) is just one of many East Coast transplants new to Los Angeles, living in a motel, and applying to every semi-livable apartment available for rent. After a long and arduous search, Sarah finally is accepted at a quaint apartment complex in a comfortable one-bedroom apartment. With a lively, friendly community that offsets the loud pipes of the building, Sarah begins to settle in nicely. However, Sarah soon finds herself questioning the genuine friendliness of her neighbors when strange events begin to unfold within the apartment complex, and she realizes her new home might not be as nice as she thought.
Off-the-bat, major points to 1BR for creativity and wit in painting a wonderfully macabre parable surrounding the stress of apartment hunting in big cities. Yet, it’s borderline impossible to accurately describe the full extent of this creativity without fully spoiling the whole game that 1BR has to play, which is much of the fun. Writer/director David Marmor has fashioned a devilishly fun little game of cat-and-mouse within a confined space, with some truly grueling (but certainly not gratuitous) sequences of intense terror.
Bloom, in her first leading role, steals the show in 1BR, almost to a fault. Is it a compliment to say that she inhabits the role of Sarah so well that it makes the supporting cast around her feel like they’re in a much cheaper, hammier film than what’s on paper? It’s that inconsistency that does often make it feel like 1BR is two different films pushed together, but luckily, much of the film is Bloom, and Bloom alone, leaving not much to be desired. There’s a wonderful emotional depth she brings to the role of Sarah in her strife that often requires little-to-no dialogue or exposition to unlock. It’s a natural flowing inhabitation of a role that is fully deserving of a scream queen title.
1BR isn’t much of a looker, but that’s not to say it isn’t competently directed. There’s a visual sterility to the film that gives the audience an objective perspective from the outside of just how bland this apartment Sarah has found is, but the audience is also provided the emotional wherewithal with her character to know just how special this bland little apartment is, and the lengths she will go to keep it hers. It’s a clever little testament to just how commodified comfortable living has become in big cities, and the sacrifices and lengths people are asked to go to uphold what should be a right for everyone.
Despite a slow, and often-times unengaging first act, 1BR takes a hard left turn into territories that were very unexpected going into the film, a turn that takes a minute to realize whether I was on board with yet, but eventually, won me over with its very tense atmosphere and clever moments of levity sprinkled in there. It becomes a character’s journey where you’re both screaming at the screen for her to run for her life, but also wondering what you would do in a situation like the one Sarah finds herself in. It all feels so obvious from the outside, but 1BR asks you to reconsider what you might initially expect of yourself and truly wonder: what would you do for perfect housing?
1BR certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but when it comes to pure, clever entertainment available at your fingertips, you can do so much worse. Everything leads to a climactic and ambitious ending that may or may not set itself up for something bigger in the future, but even without a continuation, the world that 1BR builds is fascinating and genuinely frightening for the good majority of its runtime, all bolstered by almost too good of a performance from leading lady Bloom. The worst thing you can call a horror movie is predictable, and, despite some bumps along the way, there was not a single moment where I knew where 1BR was going, and that in itself is as much of a commodity as a well-priced one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital now.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.