Welcome to the Neighborhood
Moving further into the new year. I am sure many of you are delving deeper into the back catalogues of streaming services. I know I am. January is a boring month. What better way to pass the time than with tons of horror movies? Prime Video, Shudder and Netflix all have a pretty decent haul of horror worth checking out. With this in mind, today we are taking a look at one such movie – Apartment 1BR (1BR). I checked this out on Amazon Prime in the UK. I imagine it will be available for awhile to come.
Released on the festival circuit back in 2019 with a wider release the following year. Apartment 1BR (Apartment, 1 Bedroom) is a fairly low budget film written and directed by David Marmor. It follows young seamstress Sarah as she tries to make a new life in LA, California. Mixing drama with horror elements. This is a pretty interesting movie. An engaging story is supported by some fun twists and turns. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
Obviously this review is completely spoiler free. Well, as much as it can be anyway. If you have already watched Apartment 1Br and would like a little discussion on the events of the ending. We might just have the article for you.
Although the ending of the film is fairly straight forward. We do have a slight twist. With this in mind, I put together an Apartment 1BR Ending Explained article. I talk about the and go into a bit of detail on the events of the film. Feel free to go check it out but keep in mind it is full of spoilers.
Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) has recently transferred to Los Angeles, California. Moving away from a difficult relationship with her father (Alan Blumenfeld). Sarah hopes to become a success as a clothing designer. Her mother recently passed away. There are hints that something has happened between Sarah and her dad. He clearly doesn’t believe in her ability to succeed which frustrates Sarah. Determined, she digs her heels in and takes an office job while she gets established.
Needing a place to live, Sarah views an apartment. The community in the complex seem friendly, if not a little strange. She applies and is accepted. Excited, she gathers her stuff and moves in. The complex has a strict “no pets” policy but Sarah takes no notice, sneaking her cat in under a blanket.
Her new neighbours are incredibly welcoming. Meeting them all at a gathering in the courtyard, they emphasise how they look after each other. Taking the advice on board, Sarah assists an elderly lady back to her room. Retiring to bed, Sarah is kept awake by banging noises. Sleep deprived and frustrated. It isn’t long before she begins encountering bizarre behaviour from her neighbours. Somebody has seemingly noticed that she has a cat and taken exception to this. That will be the least of her concerns, however. As time goes on it is clear the residents are hiding something sinister.
Apartment 1BR blends a few different genres together. This is a bit of a theme in modern horror. More and more often the actual horror takes a back seat. There is a strong drama leaning here with a few thriller tropes thrown in for good measure. It is a little difficult to go into too much detail without spoiling the plot. This is a movie that benefits most from the viewer coming in with a blank slate. Elements of home invasion, voyeurism and social commentary feature throughout.
Much like films such as 13 Cameras and the like. Apartment 1BR seeks to unsettle the viewer by pulling the rug out from underneath them. What if the one place you feel safe isn’t safe at all? What if the people that were once welcoming suddenly turned on you? It’s an effective way of getting under the viewer’s skin. We all have an unconscious bias towards the place we live and the people we know. These things make us feel safe and, one could argue, leave us the most vulnerable.
Where some movies fail at utilising this theme, 1BR somewhat succeeds. Sarah’s unfamiliarity with the apartment complex makes her feel uneasy. The fact that she is new to the city, as a whole, offers her a deer in the headlights kind of vulnerability. The initially accepting neighbours have something of an uncanny feeling. Something seems off but you can’t quite place what it is. It takes her awhile to let her guard down but she eventually does. This is where the plot really ramps up.
There are parts of 1BR that are reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby. This is especially true for the first third of the movie. The unsettling feeling of something being “off” with the residents is hard to ignore. One specific character concerns Sarah. An eye patch wearing, oddly behaved, man that has taken an interest in her. She draws closer to a couple of the others but something seems very strange. An elderly lady roams the complex at night yet nobody seems concerned. Something is clearly not right but Sarah is too sleep deprived to put her finger on it.
As the plot moves on, the horror evaporates and 1BR becomes something very different. For around 20 minutes it is a very effective brooding chiller. It strolls along with some decent tension and plenty of atmosphere. One scene, in particular, is extremely well done and delivers nicely on the scares. It turns out, however, that the horror is actually just opening the door to a deeper plot. A plot that is, in my opinion, fairly interesting.
Sarah’s “fish out of water” nature is further expanded on. Completely alone and subject to vicious abuse. She is incredibly vulnerable and left with few options. She goes through some traumatic events that make her all the easier to sympathise with. A horribly dark social drama takes centre stage. Based on things that really happen everyday all over the world. The plot twists into something unexpected and rather terrifying for its feasibility. The horror is pushed to the side. In its place is something that is somewhere between The Village and The Invitation (2016).
Despite how interesting and fascinating some of us will find it. It’s a turn that many will find unsatisfying whereas others will be further drawn into the story. For the remaining time leading up to 1BR’s all too predictable ending. We are dragged into a drama focusing on some of the darker elements of society. Horror fans might be a little turned off by this. I think it succeeds in holding your attention, though, and is well worth sticking with.
Again, without spoiling too much. Apartment 1BR boasts some fantastic research into its subject matter. There has clearly been a lot of effort put into crafting a realistic and believable story here. Sarah goes through certain things that are very much in line with the experiences of real people. She suffers in a way that makes a lot of logical sense when considering the intended results. This is stuff that actually happens. Victims have been documented as going through these things. The result is a movie with an extremely well crafted and completely disturbing plot.
The antagonists here aren’t mindless villains. They have an ultimate goal that becomes clearer as the movie goes on. They are created very much in the image of certain groups present in real life. You have seen these types of people before, be it on the news or in media. Everything that they do is reflective of real life people. With this in mind, it is impossible not to admire the accurate depictions. A lot of love has gone into making 1BR authentic.
It has to be said that Apartment 1BR may not appeal to all horror fans. As mentioned above, the movie abandons many of its horror elements early on. It maintains a lot of tension throughout but doesn’t go out of its way to scare the viewer. With that being said, there are some scenes that absolutely stand out. Earlier moments of tense, anxiety inducing, scares are gone. In their place are lots of plot and a small amount of violence and gore.
While not present throughout, there are a couple of scenes that are fairly shocking. Injury detail and a healthy dose of blood will likely satisfy many horror fans. It’s impossible not to point out, however, that some will definitely be let down. This is a drama for much of its length. A well crafted story about a strange group that does not conform to societal norms. Interesting, easy to follow, but not what I would call horror.
At times, the story telling ventures into the predictable. I can’t say that anything that happened was all that surprising. Despite this, the story feels tightly paced. It manages to hold the viewers attention so it is easy to forgive. 90 Minutes rolls by quickly and you are never really left wanting more or feeling bored.
Acting is generally absolutely fine. Nicole Brydon Bloom offers an interesting, nuanced performance. I can see some people thinking she was a little on the flat side. For much of the movie Sarah, as a character, is lacking in highs or lows. I think this is Bloom’s way of portraying Sarah’s feeling of unease with her situation. She is new to the city and not comfortable yet. As the movie goes on, Sarah’s character develops. As she does, Bloom’s performance gets better and better. She has some fantastic moments of emotion that are extremely convincing. She appears to display hurt very well. The way she can cry on cue will likely have veteran actors feeling green with envy. It’s a relatable and sympathetic performance from a great actor with a bright future.
The apartment complex features a few characters that stand out. There isn’t a tremendous amount of scope for well developed characters here. Jerry, played by Taylor Nichols, is noteworthy for how interesting his character is. Nichols does a great job here portraying a number of contrasting personality traits. It’s a performance that really fits the character type and carries much of the second half of the movie. Celeste Sully is a lot of fun as Sarah’s workmate Lisa. Special mention has to go to Susan Davis as eccentric elderly neighbour Miss Stanhope. She is pitch perfect as the former actor turned resident community grandma. Giles Matthey, as neighbour Brian, is decent. His character is, unfortunately, a little underdeveloped. All in all, its a decent cast that does a good job.
David Marmor’s direction is very tight. This is a 90 minute movie that absolutely flies. Pacing never feels drawn out and things move along very nicely. I could have used a little more horror and maybe a little trimming from the middle of the film. None of the scenes feel as though they outstay their welcome, though. The story is very concise and there is little in the way of wasted chatter. I do think there is a little bit of meat left on the bones when it comes to scares. Certain parts of the movie could have have used a bit more expanding on. There was plenty of opportunity to work with the bizarre actions of the neighbours. Certain scenes offered a lot of hope for more scares. Despite this, they never came to fruition. I was actually quite surprised with how quickly things escalated.
This is a drama, at its heart, though. There is something of an urgency to get to that part of the film. Cinematography is absolutely fine. It doesn’t stand out tremendously but does the job. The movie never looks low budget. There are a few moments of innovation that I enjoyed. One, in particular, stood out. Sarah is wearing ear plugs and calling to her cat. The audio is muffled to reflect what she can hear. It’s a small detail but I thought that was really well done. Special effects are really decent. They appear to be practical, for the most part. A couple of scenes will have you gritting your teeth for how nasty they are. It’s really nicely done and very impactful.
Whether Apartment 1BR will appeal to horror fans is a matter for debate. As mentioned above, it abandons much of its horror leanings early on. Some viewers will perhaps find the plot lacking and, for those people, it will likely drag a little. There are a few negatives here and there. There are some events that take place that seem a little on the unlikely side. Some of what happens doesn’t make much sense. The movie can be utterly predictable at times, as well. The ending is particularly guilty of this. It is, however, brightened up with something of a twist.
Despite these issues, this is an enjoyable movie and well worth checking out. Fans of The Invitation or The Village will likely appreciate the unexpected twists. Other horror fans may enjoy the earlier scares and slow build tension. If you are a fan of horror with a little bit more thought, this could be right up your street. I enjoyed it and found it to be an entirely easy watch. If you want scares and action, however, you may want to give Apartment 1BR a miss.
Apartment 1BR is a horror movie with a heavy drama leaning. Focusing on a young woman starting a new life in Los Angeles. She comes to find that he new neighbours are not quite what they seem. Featuring elements of voyeurism, home invasion, and social commentary. This is a well paced horror movie with an inventive, interesting plot. A little light on the scares, the drama takes over around 30 minutes into the movie and takes centre stage. Fans of fast paced horror may not find much to like. Tight direction, excellent acting and an engaging story make this a fun, if not flawed, enjoyable horror.