1BR (2019) – A Review


A review of the 2019 horror thriller 1BR, after having moved into her new apartment a girl becomes indoctrinated into a disturbing cult

Finding a nice, safe apartment in Los Angeles can be tricky. Luckily, Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) has found what looks like a perfect place to start a new life. Well, a ‘new life’ is going to happen, but not exactly the dream that she was looking for. It will become quite the twisted nightmare.

She manages to get through the screening process and lands this appealing apartment where the neighbors are all friendly, helpful and look after one another. To how far an extent they do that is something Sarah will soon discover. 

It is soon revealed this close knit community is a brainwashed cult and Sarah has become their new resident and must undergo the same unyielding brainwashing that has made this group so dedicated to each other and accept their closed off way of life.

1BR was the feature film debut by writer and director by David Marmor – and it’s a memorable first outing. It’s a small scale, effectively tense, creepy and unsettling tale. 

As the doors open in this apartment complex and secrets are revealed and Sarah must undergo a form of indoctrination – whether she wants to or not. It will be up to her how long it will take. It is a quite a simple and straight forward sequence that’s extremely effective by how it’s all put together. The shots, the music, the editing all make it a tense ordeal that Sarah undergoes. 

1BR-2019-horror-thriller-cult-movie-Nichole-Brydon-BloomThe brainwashing works and Sarah is welcomed into the ‘community’. Now conditioned, she consents to the closed-off existence she will now live in and the strict rules everyone must follow. Most importantly the good of the community comes before everyone and anything else.

She will have to prove her allegiance to the members when her estranged father arrives looking for her. It’s another suspenseful scene where Sarah must cut ties with her outside life and be sure her father doesn’t come calling for her again. If she can’t get him to leave and never return, then he’s labeled a threat to the life of the community and must be eliminated permanently.

Questions begin to build. Is Sarah truly brainwashed? Has this cults tactics effectively manipulated Sarah to be a docile resident? If it hasn’t, then how far will she be willing to go to keep up her charade? Is there anyone that feels they are also a victim and has held onto their own individualism? Is there anyone that she can truly trust in this community? Will there ever be an opportunity for her to escape? 

1BR-2019-horror-thriller-cult-movie-film-Nichole-Brydon-BloomAt times, 1BR plays out in a surreal, hallucinatory way. Almost as if you’re in the midst of taking this dreamy trip and have no idea how you got here or where things will go. There isn’t much of a traditional story that occurs. We watch the daily life Sarah is now a part of and it all slowly unfolds. There is both uneventful aspects to it and at other times alarming and unsettling. All this takes place under the watchful eyes of cameras that are everywhere! 

What makes 1BR so impressive and successful, is how simple it all is. It is not glossy or extravagant. There are no elaborate traditional horror types of sequences with extended ‘running for your life’ from the killer or a scary ax wielding villain ready to bounce out from the woods. It’s how the story is told and the techniques it uses to up the uneasiness in every room Sarah steps into.

I also have to mention the actors, all of whom do an excellent job. The cult members are both frightening and seemingly blasé about the life they exist in. They truly believe in this life and will go to any lengths to ensure its safety and go blindly along with its rules, which makes being around them all the more unsettling.

There are some very good scenes of characters calmly talking about disturbing things and professing how wonderful this cult will be for Sarah. Particularly good is Taylor Nichols as the apartment manager who runs the show in this complex. “One day, you’ll thank me.” He is very good and makes a memorably disturbing ringleader.

1BR-2019-horror-thriller-Taylor-Nichols-Giles-Matthey-underrated-movie-filmOut of the cast I only recognized character actors Naomi Grossman and Alan Blumfeld (who’s appeared in dozens of films and tv shows). So the cast were mostly all new to me and I think being unfamiliar with them was more effective in bringing me into this mysterious cult living behind these innocuous gates.

It looks rather ordinary, but has an undercurrent of eeriness to everything right from the start. Once the psychodrama gets rolling it gets more and more unpleasant. When I started watching 1BR I didn’t know anything about it. I was very surprised how compelling it was and had hooked me in. If you’re in the mood for tense, distressing thriller, 1BR will do the job.

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