Monday, June 7, 2021

The Stepford Tenants

Having recently moved, I can tell you that much like dental visits, apartment hunting needs little special effects to become an effective horror movie.

Quick Plot: Following the death of her mother, Sarah has moved away from her estranged father in order to start fresh in LA. She bumbles through a temp job at a law office with more ambitious plans of finishing her costume design degree. Her only companion is an adorable (AND VERY CLEARLY ILL-FATED YOU'VE BEEN WARNED OKAY) kitty named Giles, a sweet boy who makes apartment hunting a bit of a challenge.

Sarah finds the perfect titular one-bedroom apartment in a warm and friendly building with nightly barbecues but a cruel no-pets policy. She manages to sneak Giles inside, but within a few days, an anonymous neighbor is slipping threats under her door.

1BR moves surprisingly quickly, and about 30 minutes in, gives its big reveal. Stop now if you're planning on watching (something I do recommend, kitty bake aside).

Now that you've seen what you need to see, let's dig in.

Naturally, Sarah's new digs are part of some Stepford-like compound, where a now deceased visionary crafted the perfect community, leaving his descendants to carry on the traditions of torture-induced mind control. That handsome flirtatious neighbor? Obviously more Hitler youth than Hallmark movie love interest.

1BR is writer/director David Marmor's first full-length feature, and it shows a whole lot of promise. As I mentioned during my Vivarium praise, I love this kind of story: idyllic shared communities with secrets just unlock something that's fun to explore, and offer so much room for weird style dives. On that front, 1BR could probably have dived deeper, though I'm sure certain budget restrictions might have played a part there.

is a very strong debut, particularly in its smartly speedy pacing. It won't linger forever in my head the way, say The Stepford Wives does, but there's a lot of good stuff on display, and I hope to see Marmor stay in the genre and continue to develop his voice for some time.

High Points
I don't want to spoil 1BR or another, even better LA-set horror film of recent years, but I will say that the ending, which gave us an exciting "this is much bigger than you think it is" twist was quite satisfying

Low Points
Nicole Brydon Bloom is perfectly fine as Sarah, but it's hard to resist thinking about how much more interesting this kind of story would be if told from someone that wasn't your typical pretty young white woman so often cast as the lead (especially when it throws us a more dynamic sidekick in Celeste Sully's Lisa)

Lessons Learned
Any community that seems too friendly is, without any doubt, completely evil

Any community that doesn't welcome pets is, obviously, completely evil

Do I need to say more?

True horror fans might understand this statement: 1BR feels more like a Shudder original than a Netflix movie, which is a good thing. This is a quick, sharp little thriller that is more satisfying than not. Give it a go.


  1. I just got done watching this. It's well done, but maybe not my sort of thing... more irritating to me than scary (just like real life HOAs and cults) .
    The recent 'Wrong Turn' reboot hit some similar notes, but with a more satisfying ending... but I just spend the whole length of these things waiting to see the villains gutted (and in this case, wondering how the residents supported themselves, since they never seemed to leave).

    Maybe it's a trend... movies about finding the dystopian aspect of your ideals... but just last night I listened to an old time radio show (from the 70s), "The Three Elders Of Lifeboat Landing" and it was pretty much the same premise.

    Thanks for pointing it out though.

  2. I can see what you mean. There's definitely something missing, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

    Waiting to watch the Wrong Turn reboot for it to come to streaming. Based on most of what I've heard, it doesn't seem worth paying for.

    1. My favorite shot in '1BR' is at the end... the slow tightening of her bloody fist... but it would have been better if she'd been alongside her quasi-friend from work.

      I actually kind of liked the new Wrong Turn... or at least didn't share the 'how dare they' ire that I've seem from some folks. Maybe didn't think the previous ones were all that special to begin with.
      Still, you're right, probably not worth paying for... and my paranoia detects a sneaky political agenda in it.

    2. The coworker pal was my favorite part of 1BR, and I really wish the filmmakers figured out what they had with that actress and her chemistry with the lead. It really could have been a more interesting film had they utilized her better.

      I thankfully haven't heard anyone angry about the idea of rebooting Wrong Turn, more ambivalent than anything else.