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1BR: How The 2020 Horror Movie Embraces Audience Fascination With Cults


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The 2020 horror film, 1BR, does a solid job embracing audience fascination with cults. The independent movie, written and directed by David Marmor, centers on the character of Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom), a young architecture student who moves into her own one-bedroom apartment at a complex called Asilo Del Mar Apartments in Los Angeles. About a half an hour into the movie, things start to go extremely wrong.

The first red flag is when Jerry (Taylor Nichols), the leader of an apparently friendly apartment complex—featuring a diverse community of seemingly too-happy people who gather regularly for barbecues—asks Sarah if she has any contacts in the Los Angeles area. Then, her cat goes missing. Eventually, Sarah has somehow become part of a cult, which Roger Ebert referred to as "a combination of Charles Manson's 'Family' and Charles Dederich's Santa Monica-based Synanon group."

At first, it's easy to see why the community is appealing to Sarah. She just left home, having escaped her overbearing father. She's pretty much on her own; it doesn't seem like Sarah had many friends before this, aside from Lisa (Celeste Sully), a colleague at Sarah's internship. So, she happily accepts the newfound friend group that she finds at Asilo Del Mar Apartments. But of course, things get creepy, especially when it's discovered that Sarah's neighbors have been spying on her through closed-circuit cameras hidden in her apartment.

How 1BR Embraces Audience Fascination With Cults
 
 
The movie, which saw mounting success on Netflix when it was added to the streaming catalogue in August 2020, fully embraces a general audience fascination with cults and cult-like communities. Even better—it does a good job with the material. Reportedly, to ensure some sense of realism and accuracy, the filmmakers spoke to people who used to be part of groups like Scientology and NXIVM. The movie ends up doing a solid job of portraying the cult, allowing viewers to sympathize with Sarah; as aforementioned, it's easy to understand how she finds herself falling into a cult. Beyond that, she was hand-picked by members of the community, specifically Jerry and Brian, because she fit the profile of someone who would be relatively easy to manipulate into the fold. Often, cult leaders are charismatic and know exactly the types of people they're looking to recruit.

1BR is just the latest entry in the ever-growing category of cult-related media. Movies and television shows based on cults have been drawing a lot of audience interest in recent years. Just a few of these titles include Midsommar, Doctor Sleep, The Invitation, and American Horror Story: Cult, among many others. Plus, there are several true-crime shows and documentary series focusing solely on real-life cults, like Wild Wild Country and Waco. These stories attract casual viewers and true crime buffs alike because audiences can't help but be interested in how an average person could become part of a cult. It seems strangely detached from reality, yet is more common than many realize. Plus, watching a protagonist claw their way out of a cult makes for a thrilling movie experience.

 

 

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