Fantasia 2019 Review: In 1BR, Apartment Hunting Can Be Murder
There is nothing fun about finding a place to live, especially in a new city where you have no friends or relatives to help you. Sarah (Nicole Bloom) has just arrived in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a costume designer, but in the mean time, she finds a temp gig and starts looking for an apartment. Alone, broke, and trepdatious about her future, she miraculously stumbles onto a seeming ldyllic apartment complex that just so happens to have a one bedroom unit available. Sarah puts in her application without too much hope that'll she'll get it, but sometimes miracles do happen.
She quickly gets the call that she's been accepted, but within the first few days she begins to realize that something isn't quite right. There are horrendously loud noises behind the walls every night as she tries to fall asleep, she's begin to become wary of her neighbors oppressively friendly overtures toward her, and even the cute guy down the hall seems just a bit off. If you've guessed that there's something sinister at play here, you're not wrong, and Sarah's world turns upside down when her apartment community's rules turn out to be quite a bit harsher than she'd expected.
As the film goes on, Sarah's entanglement in the community becomes more and more absurd, she soon reaches a point where it becomes clear that she will never be able to leave this community, at least not without a fight.
Director David Marmor makes his feature debut with 1BR, a film about a girl looking for a safe place to lay her head who finds out that sometimes community comes with strings - or zip-ties - attached. While we've all had our own experiences with nightmare landlords, tenants, roommates, and neighbors, I think it's safe to say that 1BR does us all one better. Mixing elements of the paranoid thrillers of the '70s with a nod to religious cult horror like Rosemary's Baby, this new film takes the horror of apartment hunting to a new extreme.
Made on a fairly low budget, 1BR is wisely confined almost entirely to the apartment complex in the film, making the breezeways, secret storage spaces, and communal spaces into characters just as important as any of the actors. Bloom delivers a very impressive performance, easily the best in the film, as the wide-eyed new kid on the block. Her vulnerability is palpable, and helps to convey a kind of malleabillity demanded by the screenplay as she attempts to blend in with what initially seems to be a perfectly friendly group of neighbors.
There is no more difficult review to write than that of an okay film. There's nothing stellar about 1BR, and there is just as little that is offensively bad. It's fine. And that goes for almost every aspect of the production, apart from Nicole Bloom's lead perfromance. 1BR is technically competent, lighting and cinematography are effective in conveying a certain kind of mood, it has a pretty decent score peppered with old school pop hits for emphasis on certain moments, and the acting is all perfectly fine. But that's about as far as it goes, which is probably my biggest issue.
A story like this, a fish out of water who stumbles into a community that isn't quite what it seems, is actualyl a really great and relatable idea. The way Sarah's indoctrination plays out is believable, and at first glance, this community is ideal, it's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else and they all work support each other. Marmor's narrative takes the concept and goes to a really interesting extreme place with it, but the film feels somewhat subdued in execution. Throw in a bit more chaos, some aggressive camerawork, perhaps a bit more tension building, and I think 1BR could've worked better.
- David Marmor
- David Marmor
- Andrea Gabriel
- Mark Krenik
- Suzshi Lang