Before I begin my full-fledged review of David Marmor’s 1BR, I must give a bit of a spoiler warning: I do talk about what this film is about here. Although I don’t go over every single detail, I do discuss the basic premise. If you are concerned about me discussing some of the basics, then this is your fair warning.
I must also confess something: I interviewed this film’s composer a while back (and that can be found here). I know what that means. Some people might immediately expect a biased review, right? While I do happen to like 1BR, it wasn’t just because I had that interview lined up. You’ll have to take me at my word here: If I thought “1BR” was bad, I’d let you know. I think it’s a good movie.
So How Good is it and Why?
After watching 1BR, I was a bit surprised that it felt original. I was expecting it to feel too much like Rosemary’s Baby. Granted, this movie also features an apartment complex and feelings of claustrophobia, but the story obliterates the need for comparisons. Before long I was like “Rosemary who?” because this story asks questions in an original enough way, and with a fairly self-contained style.
It also plays upon that fear: If you’re living in an apartment complex, can you trust the group of people around you? It’s certainly a cause for concern for new tenants — especially for those “just starting out” in the world. In this case, a young woman named Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) is forced into a crazy situation, and there doesn’t appear to be an easy way out.
This is an anti-authoritarian story in the classic tradition. It urges the viewer to question the amount of power we give to leaders, as well as how we decide to choose a new leader. What is leadership for? Also, how do you challenge someone whose power is obviously derived illegitimately, through physical violence and terror?
Basically, if you are coerced to be a part of a mysterious “community” and you’re not even related to their predecessors, you have every excuse to get out while you can. Even if they don’t have fresh terrors around every corner like in 1BR, you will probably get tired of the ridiculous rules and get out.
This Film May Offend People
In this day and age, I think 1BR might be disliked because some could find it offensive. Certainly, tenants actually could find themselves in a bizarre situation like this, but I assume some religious people might be offended by the premise. Honestly, the movie seems to be a bit of a dig at cult-like true believers (and I won’t bother naming religions here). The point is, so many zealous people could become the ruthless leader of a cult, who tries to force a dream and prevent people from leaving the so-called community.
This film also demonstrates how, through twisted methods of control, a cult’s victim can be terrorized for the full entertainment of its inhabitants, who at the same time pretend to be holy. Cults are sort of an endless well of potential story concepts for an aspiring filmmaker, a scriptwriter, etc.
Unfortunately, though, some evangelist-types out there would be offended by the basic premise, as it sort of makes religious ideologies look bad, in general. It seems 1BR has avoided scandal, though, for the most part, which either suggests the times have changed or it’s just that darn good of a movie.
The Cult Leader
I should mention the main cult leader guy here. Jerry (Taylor Nichols) almost comes across as nice, at first. However, we soon learn that he’s no one’s true friend, and he uses his power to abuse the tenants into following his orders, and is perfectly willing to torture them into “re-enlisting” in his cult (so to speak), or be killed when they refuse.
If a potential recruit refuses to comply with his order, Jerry will torture them into submission through a twisted game. Or, if things get “bad” enough, he might execute the disobedient with a bullet to the head — or maybe have someone else do it, like Brian (Giles Matthey).
1BR does get pretty brutal, but this isn’t just a mindless horror flick. It’s also a psychological thriller and drama (I’m not the type to go around saying “That’s not actually horror because of X, Y, and Z…”). Still, for those needing a little more horror cred, know that it also features Naomi Grossman, who played Pepper on the FX horror television series American Horror Story. The film made its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in July 2019 and can be found streaming online (as of Valentine’s Day 2021, it’s still on Netflix).
What are your thoughts on 1BR? Have you ever been in a cult? Are you in one right now? If so, tell us in the comments, then carefully make your escape!
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