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1BR - Grimmfest Review

★★★★

Directed by: #DavidMarmor

Written by: #DavidMarmor

Starring: #NicoleBrydonBloom, #GilesMatthey, #TaylorNichols, #AlanBlumenfeld, #CelesteSully, #SusanDavis, #ClaytonHoff, #EarnestinePhillips, #NaomiGrossman

Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren Tilby



Well, this was a breath of fresh air. After years of being bored to death with the usual demon-raising plotline, David Marmor brings us his take on the secret-society genre. Only here, there’s not a single satanic cultist in sight. Instead, Marmor grounds his film firmly in reality.


Having fled her previous life after the death of her mother, Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) seeks a new beginning in Los Angeles. The problem is that she has very little money and only a temporary job. But after a viewing at an LA apartment complex, she is surprised to receive a letter from the landlord, Jerry (Taylor Nichols) offering her – out of hundreds of people – the unit. Sarah is thrilled, of course. Even if she does have to sneak her cat in due to the ‘no pets’ condition on the contract. But as you likely know, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.


If you’re a fan of the genre you’ll know what to expect: suspicious activities, creepy neighbours, secret societies, 1BR has it all. To its credit, it never tries to be something it isn’t, and it never works to be anything revolutionary. It does, however, distance itself with the nature of its cultists. Rather than serving some dark higher purpose, these cultists are more concerned with conditioning their victims into compliance. Writer/Director David Marmor did a lot of research beforehand on various cults and torture/conditioning techniques (some of which were employed by the British during the troubles), and it really shows. So while films such as Rosemary’s Baby have been an obvious inspiration, Marmor derives much more from real-life cults like Sullivanians, The Branch Davidians, and Synanon.


The reason all of this works so well (and it does) is because of two reasons.

Firstly, the incredibly strong cast. Taylor Nichols heads the sinister group in a standout performance, and Nicole Brydon Bloom radiates charm and affability in the lead role. Factor in terrific support from household names including Naomi Grossman, Giles Matthey, Celeste Sully, and Alan Blumenfeld, and you’re in for a real treat.

Secondly, is the film’s almost perfect pacing. Marmor’s excellent writing insists on the movie’s simmering-pot tempo and never feels sluggish. This tension-building narrative is accentuated by both #DavidBolen’s cinematography and #RonenLanda’s accompanying score; aptly maintaining the film’s claustrophobic, almost choking atmosphere.


There’s an argument to be had that maybe 1BR isn’t original enough; that it retreads old ground. And, while I kind of agree, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. At least not in this instance. The film-makers have stuck to a tried and tested formula. And while that means 1BR is unlikely to surprise you, knowing where the danger is coming from before the character does can also be an effective way to build tension. My personal view is that it works really well here. What is irrefutable, however, is that the decision to entwine the narrative with inflexions of reality not only sets this movie apart but also makes it feel considerably more relevant in today’s socio-political climate. Which only makes the contents of the film all the more terrifying.