Synopsis: New to Los Angeles, a woman moves into a seemingly perfect apartment complex, and soon finds out that there are consequences for breaking the rules.
Stars: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Naomi Grossman, Taylor Nichols, Alan Blumenfeld
Director: David Marmor
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: The other night I was having a bad case of The Scrolls. You know what The Scrolls are. You have every streaming service available, a healthy library of digital movies, and are staring at a wall of BluRays and DVDs of countless films but you just can’t find anything to watch. Do you go for an old classic or do you try something new? It’s getting late so now you can’t pick anything too long because it’s a weeknight…but wait, we’re in a quarantine and you work from home so you could stay up a little later. Then again, you are kind of tired so something shorter would be nice. You settle for something new and your genre of choice is, of course, horror because your partner doesn’t care for it and he’s busy in the other room playing the remake of Final Fantasy on PS4. A title pops up that looks like a pass but the reviews are decent…it’s 90 minutes so why not?
This, dear readers, is how I came to find my way into 1BR, a nifty little thriller that’s out now to stream. It’s budget is low and it’s production values are slim but it’s more effective that you might imagine and it goes to show (once again) how you must never judge a movie by its cover. First impressions aren’t always everything…especially when it comes to indie-horror films.
Arriving in Los Angeles with hopes of being a costume designer, Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) is also trying to leave the bad memories of her fractured family behind her. With only her cat as companion, she’s living week to week in a motel while she finds an affordable place to live in the city of stars. Attending an open house at a well-manicured, gated apartment complex with friendly, if guarded, residents, she’s sure she won’t get the apartment and surprised when she gets the call that the one bedroom dwelling is hers. Ignoring the no pet policy, she sneaks her cat in…her first mistake…or is it really her second?
To give away what happens to Sarah is to break the lease of trust I have with you in terms of spoilers so I’ll just hint that this apartment is far from serene perfection and the tenants not entirely what they appear to be. Writer/director David Marmour makes up for a small budget and limited shooting locations with a well-formed idea that he gets a lot of mileage out of. I had no idea where this one was going and definitely no clue where it was headed…which makes for an entertaining watch. Twists are doled out fairly and characters make choices that feel motivated by choice, rather than phantom direction from a script that hasn’t been fully realized.
It also helps Marmour has assembled a complex full of interesting actors, starting with Bloom as the tormented Sarah. The way Bloom plays her, Sarah is a bit of an enigma, so we get the feeling Sarah might not be entirely who we think she is at the beginning…so we’re never sure how much we should trust her or feel for her plight. Maybe she’s holding a secret that we don’t know yet and whatever empathy we have for her isn’t totally deserved. There’s nice work from Giles Matthey (Ford v Ferrari) as a possible romantic interest for Sarah, Taylor Nichols (Jurassic Park III) as the overly kind landlord, and Clayton Hoff as a mysterious neighbor who recently lost his wife. I also particularly liked Susan Davis as an elderly resident that Sarah forms a friendship with…a bit of trivia I learned is that Davis was the English voice of Pippi Longstocking for the 1968 film of the same name. It gives her a little twinkle in her eye, which masks some deeper wells of deceit.
Others with a case of The Scrolls might find themselves skimming by this one, assuming it’s just another low-grade bit of garbage but this is one to add to your watchlist pronto. It’s not going to change the world but for 90 minutes it’s going to hold your attention. In a way, some of it’s low-rent trappings (re-using a few of the same shots, obvious continuity errors) make it that much more appealing – but ultimately it acquits itself nicely for having some originality because it carries itself confidently toward a satisfying conclusion.