Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupant (2011)

Fear 2/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 2/5
Creepiness 2/5

Occupant is a film with an interesting premise and set-up: take a young man, struggling to get by and offer him a prime real estate location that's rent controlled in New York (read: on the cheap). All he has to do is lock himself in the apartment for 12 days and the place is his free and clear. While the concept is interesting, and other worldly forces come into play (I think), the film is plagued with indecision in terms of direction and ultimately, an ending that leaves way too many unanswered questions.

We're introduced to our central character, a young man named Danny who's college educated but for some reason, decides that working at a local thrift store is a much better career choice. Awkwardly, he's being followed on the city streets by a beautiful young woman who's videotaping him for a video blog that she runs. At his request, she stops filming and a bit of flirtatious banter ensues as he tells her that he's on his way to his dead grandmother's apartment to collect some things.

Getting into the apartment building, he meets Joe, an Eastern European accented man who's charming and talks about the history of the building. He encourages Danny to take ownership of the apartment, putting it into his ear that he was there to take care of his invalid grandmother during her final days even though he hadn't had contact with her in years. This would serve as 'proof' that he really was a resident there and not just someone looking for a handout.  With this, it becomes apparent that Joe has an agenda. After talking to a lawyer who assures him that the place will be his after 12 days, Danny moves in with what little things he has which includes his companion: a cat.

Almost immediately, weird things begin to happen. Danny notices a row of his grandmother's shoes which were neatly lined up near her bed the previous night are now missing a pair. Even more worrisome, is a large hole in her closet wall which leads to god knows where. After having not been at work for a few days, the girl whom he'd met on the street days earlier randomly decides to show up to the apartment. It's a bizarre moment which feels completely awkward and unnatural as they had no prior communication before she came over.

Anyways, they cook dinner together, flirt and get down to bedroom business. She leaves the camera running and films the whole fling. In the middle of the night, she decides to get up for a bit of a snack. With camera in tow, she heads to the darkened kitchen, grabs her snack and we briefly see a figure in the hallway. As she walks through the living room and back to the bedroom, she's struck over the head, the camera falls to the floor and rolls around. The next morning, Danny awakes to find her gone. Never once does he question how she got out since they were both locked in from the inside and the door remains bolted.

Despite numerous efforts to get to Danny and try to forcibly remove him from the apartment, he persists and continues to keep himself holed in. Joe gets him food and groceries as well as provides a daily affirmation. Just a few more days he tells him. Things quickly escalate when Danny puts the woman's camera in the area of the house to film whatever weirdness he thinks is going on. His mental state is obviously slipping but it never comes about in an organic way. Around day 8 or so, he goes full on cuckoo for cocoa puffs for no real rhyme or reason. You don't get a sense that it was because of claustrophobia or some sort of supernatural element that drove him to madness. He just flips out and barricades himself even more in the apartment with Joe bringing over a massive amount of barbed wire. He builds crude, medieval-like weapons to protect himself from god knows what. He builds a trap which involves a swinging door with spikes lodged into it. This device becomes the vehicle he uses to do himself in and our story abruptly ends.

Occupant is great in concept but not much else. Too much is asked of the viewer as they're expected to accept a lot on face value with no reveal, no clear cut rationale nor even a hint given as to the reason for this young man going insane and ultimately doing himself in. What a waste.

Cortez the Killer

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