1BR (or Apartment 1BR in the UK), a 2019 Horror movie. Going into this I, much like the main character, had very little idea of what to expect. I had a vague awareness that it was about a young woman moving into an apartment and bad things happening but that was the extent of my knowledge. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into.
From the start, the film creates a distinct atmosphere. The apartment complex that the action is set in has no obvious evil vibes, instead it’s much more subtle and relies on a feeling of unease. Everything looks normal but there’s something… off. The viewer gets to know main girl, Sarah, (played fantastically by Nicole Brydon Bloom) as she smuggles her cute kitty Giles into her no pets allowed apartment. There’s an attractive young man next door, a slightly confused elderly resident, a man with one eye and the building manager. We also get to meet a colleague at her new job who she quickly develops a friendship with. Much like with the atmosphere around the apartment complex, the film does a great job of not making it apparent who the villain is going to be. No one is played out as an obvious evil. The one eyed man, Lester, is the most externally creepy but even characters like Brian (Sarah’s neighbour, played by Giles Matthey) are unsettling. He’s nice and in any other type of film, he would probably be a romantic lead, but as so many girls on the internet know, ‘nice guys’ often have hidden agendas.
2019 1BR Movie
Things take a very sharp turn about 25 minutes in. The viewer knows something bad is coming and I’m sure a lot of horror fans could guess who exactly was going to be the first target (spoiler alert, he’s furry and has four legs). But knowing did nothing to diminish the impact. By the time the 25 minute mark rolls around and Sarah sees a ‘no pet notice’ on top of her smoking oven, I was so on edge that even though I expected it, I was a bit shellshocked.
It’s after this impromptu late night barbeque where things really amp up. Sarah sees Brian in her apartment and I was preparing myself for him to be the primary antagonist. I wouldn’t have minded this. Matthey’s Brian has firmly got a place on my list of ‘villains that manage to be both sinister and kind of charismatic’, the ones that even though you know they’re not good you might overlook it a little (think about all the fangirls for characters like Loki, Snape, Moriarty etc). I was very surprised when Sarah managed to free herself so quickly and it soon became apparent this was a lot bigger than one person. There’s a moment when she is being dragged away by Brian and all the other residents in the block are coming out into the communal area to watch, it really brings a feeling of dread for the protagonist.
2019 1BR Movie
This point and the end sequence might be the most intense of the film but the filmmakers managed to make very mundane actions feel as stressful as any abduction or murder. A lot of what follows is around conditioning and indoctrination, and by the end even after seeing the acts from different angles the viewer doesn't get to feel like they know everything which might create a moment to relax. It's not just the uncertainty around everything that's chilling. There’s a stoic quality to a lot of the scenes from this point, a calmness that makes even violent acts seem perfectly reasonable.
The viewer gets introduced to the unique society that has been forged inside the apartment block and it’s acted in such a way that you can never be sure which members are actively antagonists and which are simply brainwashed. It also becomes apparent why characters like Lester, who seems the most visibly at odds with the idyllic surroundings, stand out – not because they’re ‘creepy’ but because they don’t exactly fit. Typically in films, the outsider is the threat. 1BR does a great job of subverting expectations in this way.
2019 1BR Movie
All of the cast did an amazing job. They didn’t feel like characters, they felt very real and there were these moments where the dynamics between them almost made their world seem like the lesser of two evils. It was well written and kept me guessing the entire way through. After I finished watching it, I had one of those moments where the brain just pauses and leaves you unsure how to react while it processes. In my opinion, that’s a sign of something really good.
I cannot recommend this movie enough. For all fans of horror and maybe even for more casual watchers. It’s something special and I’ll be very excited to see what comes next from writer/director David Marmor.