Spoiler warning! Stay outside the door if you don’t want to know what happens (you can read my review here).
Well first of all, RIP Giles, whose goose was well and truly cooked.
And congratulations to Sarah on her “marriage” to Lester! Oh and on her escape from Alcatraz.
To me, Apartment 1BR is about two things. That what lies beneath is often very different to the sunny surface, and the dangers, and lure, of conformity; whether in a cult, organised religion, or other online or offline community.
I said in my review that there are religious references. Religions often become, in practice, less about loving one’s neighbours and more about criticising or punishing them. The torture I referenced is nailing Sarah to the wall. She’s been ordered to lean on the wall with her arms outstretched for hours at a time; unable to go on, her palms are nailed. It’s not quite a punishment for heresy – she’s not purified with fire, you’ll be pleased to know – but it’s certainly biblical.
When Sarah finally tells Jerry she will accept them, he insists she form a relationship with Lester, whose wife died of cancer previously. Lester is quiet and diffident, previously misread by both the community and Sarah. Now he tells her he spent five years trying to fight against the system before giving in. He’s very sweet to her and their scene is quite touching. We already know he might not be as accepting of the situation as Jerry thinks – when she’s finally allowed to work in the complex, while she’s chopping vegetables she looks at the knife pondering whether to take it. Lester sees her but instead of telling Jerry he simply mouths “no” because they’re being filmed.
Sarah’s big test comes when her dad arrives unexpectedly. He’s told to come back later, and the neighbours put her apartment back as it was for her to meet him there. He apologises when he sees her but she is forced to be cruel to make him leave, and to save him: behind him, she can see Brian brandishing a knife.
The “good” side to the community turns out to be a mirage. This is really about an organisation taking but not giving back to the same level. Working on the spy cameras, Sarah sees Edie fall in her apartment. They rush to help; later, sitting round Edie’s bed, she discovers that such concern is always part of a deal. Now Edie’s age and infirmity mean she’s unable to help practically in the community, she has to die, and she accepts this without complaint. Her death involves them placing a black bag over her head while she inhales gas. The bag is utterly dehumanising, a familiar tactic for societies that kill their members.
Lisa is the catalyst for Sarah’s fight back – with Jerry trying to break her, she refuses to succumb. Jerry brings in Sarah and demands she hold a screwdriver while he hammers it through Lisa’s ear. Lisa pleads with Sarah and reminds her about being her own person, and Sarah stabs Jerry. They escape the room, with Sarah helping Lisa, but Jerry shoots Lisa dead. Sarah kills him then runs off into the central area.
Her biggest shock is that she thinks everyone is there against their will, and once Jerry is dead they will thank her. But they love their community and want to stay. Many of them have the same scars on their hands that she does. (I wonder how much of their reaction is sunk cost fallacy – they’ve committed too much of themselves to walk away.)
Sarah runs to the entrance lobby and uses a remote control she took from Jerry to open the door. One of the residents grabs her – she looks round and Lester has the gun. Not wanting to live as a captive, she pleads with him to shoot her. Instead he shoots the man holding her, and she escapes.
She runs out, covered in blood, and up the road. It’s only when she stops to catch her breath that she notices the symbol on many of the apartment blocks round about. It’s the same symbol from her own apartment complex, the one branded onto her skull when she finally accepted the group.
Suddenly red lights start flashing and sirens sound on each building (possibly a community-wide alert to stop Sarah). She smiles, clenches her fists and runs away down the middle of the road, finally free of everyone and able to decide how her life turns out.
I always love it when the last one standing survives, and isn’t then murdered in a sneaky mid-credits scene. Though more arresting for me during Sarah’s escape is Lester’s end. The other residents pull him in, clawing at him. The door shuts, then there’s a shot and blood spatters across the glass door panel. It reminded me of those scenes in zombie films when someone is overcome by the undead – zombies, after all, are often allegories for the ultimate conformists.
Apartment 1BR is available on digital in the UK and on digital / DVD / blu-ray in the US