A young woman finds out that the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” can be horrifyingly true in the nerve-wracking chiller 1BR. Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom in a superb performance) moves to Los Angeles without a job or apartment, angry after her recently widowed father takes up with a new lover. She lucks out — or so she thinks — when she wins out over several competitors and lands a highly sought-after apartment in a community where everyone knows each other and has community barbecues. Strict rules are in place, though, and Sarah learns a terrifying lesson when she breaks one of them. This is just the beginning of her problems, though, as 1BR heads into territory that it would be a disservice to spoil here. Suffice it to say that the film is filled with not only loads of suspense and cringe-inducing moments (in the best sense of that term), but that it also pulls goes down some unexpected paths. The cast is terrific, including Taylor Nichols as the building’s soft-spoken manager and Clayton Hoff as odd neighbor Lester. Writer/director David Marmor has crafted a thrilling debut that successfully allows viewers to get to know Sarah and her neighbors and invest in these characters emotionally before ratcheting up the tension. You can find plenty of reviews with spoilers for 1BR, but take my advice and learn as little as possible before viewing it. You’ll be greatly rewarded for doing so.
Though offering a dark meditation on loss and grief with some genuinely creepy set pieces, This Is Our Home suffers from a pet peeve of mine that has been a recent trend in some horror films lately: unlikeable characters giving viewers no one for whom to root. Real-life couple Jeff Ayars and Simone Policano give fine performances as Cory and Reina, a couple who is suffering from the loss of a child during pregnancy, but their characters spend much of the film bickering, sniping, and in the case of Cory, acting like a selfish, confrontational jerk (to put it mildly). The two take a trip to the country home where Reina grew up, which includes a room that her father told her she could never enter. In the middle of one night, a child (Drew Beckas as Zeke) knocks on the door, claiming to be their son. After agreeing to call authorities the next morning, the gap between the couple widens further as Reina’s maternal instincts grow stronger while Cory grows more suspicious of the youngster, who begins revealing that he knows intimate secrets about each of them. Director Omri Dorani, working from a screenplay by Rob Harmon, mines this lo-fi film for all the eeriness possible, and creates a grim atmosphere. The film runs out of steam at the end, though, including several minutes of what feels like padding things out after the climax, but there’s enough to recommend here for fans of relationship-gone-sour and stranger-in-the-house horror efforts. Some viewers may find the arguments between Cory and Reina more relatable than I did, as well, in which case they may find plenty of drama to be had.
1 BR and This Is Our Home screened at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, running from October 17–24.