Whilst in the middle of a global pandemic it would be more ideal to escape the harsh reality that is 2020, certain films can’t help but sucker us in with the relevance they manage to inject into their seemingly outlandish premise. Giving a whole new meaning to apartment hunting, and playing on the claustrophobic mentality that isolation has delivered in the process, Apartment 1BR is a nasty psychological thriller that’ll give you pause when considering the hospitality of your neighbours.
Moving to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding her true calling (don’t they all?), 20-something Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) discovers quite early on that if it all seems too good to be true then it very much is. But she’s in no position to really think otherwise – at least initially – as she secures a neat apartment in a tight-knit community complex, both close to her work and with the added ability of an eligible bachelor next door. So where’s the catch? Well, once she realises how strict the building’s “no pets” policy is and that the fellow residents all take the building’s security watch far more seriously than should legally be allowed, Sarah starts to see this city of angels is anything but heavenly.
But she can’t just leave – there’s no horror movie if she could simply just walk away – and the cult that is her complex reveal their brutal nature as they put poor Sarah through the ringer in order to initiate her into their mindset; sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, and bodily torture just some of the lovely tactics applied. As the methods start to wear her down, Sarah starts to question if the complex and its inhabitants have merit in their actions, and when a new member nabs one of the apartments, Sarah’s devotion is tested…but if she’ll go through with what they’re asking is another matter entirely.
Working with the simplest of premises, but managing to transform it into something particularly inventive, Apartment 1BR suggests writer/director David Marmor (in his directorial debut) has a strong career ahead of him, especially within the compounds of this genre; the film’s final shot essentially reshapes the entire film and makes us re-evaluate what has come before. Though the film occasionally slips into camp with some of the performances, the fact that the majority of the characters are so unhinged allows this to feel more reasonable when the ultimate “why” is revealed, and Brydon Bloom’s incredibly dedicated turn as the could-be victim Sarah constantly elevates the material whenever it starts to lose its grip.
Flirting between social commentary, a survivalist thriller and torture porn, Apartment 1BR is worth checking into – if for nothing else than to see how grand a small-scale production can be if its ingredients are utilised to their potential. Far from being pleasant viewing, Marmor’s film is likely to unnerve and rightly make you uncomfortable, but I gather that’s entirely the point of a film designed to question your comfort zone.
Apartment 1BR is available to rent or buy now from most digital and physical platforms.