July 17, 2020 Into the Dark: The Current Occupant (Movie Review)
There may not be too much to celebrate this Independence Day, but Hulu’s monthly Horror anthology Into the Dark begs to differ. The Current Occupant, the latest offering in the series, takes a deep dive into political conspiracies where a man with no memory is trapped in a mysterious psychiatric ward and comes to believe that he is the President of the United States. Directed by Julius Ramsay (The Walking Dead series, Krypton series) and written by Alston Ramsay—who actually worked as a speechwriter for politicians in Washington D.C.—The Current Occupant drops on Hulu on July 17th, joining a solid roster of episodes from Blumhouse Productions, but can it live up to the hype of the series?
For those unfamiliar, Hulu’s Into the Dark series drops a new “episode” every month to coincide with a holiday, and each episode is a stand-alone feature-length film from up-and-coming writers and directors. The Current Occupant stands out from its predecessors in several ways, but in this case that is not necessarily a good thing. Many Into the Dark features, like June’s quirky Good Boy or February’s bold My Valentine, weave Horror and fun together for a campy but enjoyable experience. The Current Occupant, however, is mired in dreariness from the get-go, and it suffers for its lack of levity.
When Henry Cameron (Barry Watson: 7th Heaven series, A Dog’s Way Home 2019) signs up for an ominous medical trial in order to get back his memory after a near-fatal shooting, he comes to believe that he is part of some evil political conspiracy to keep him away from the American public. The asylum leeches humanity from its patients, and it is impossible to tell friend from foe, imagination from reality, truth from lies. The cinematography and direction, with its use of blurred edges and lack of color, ensures that the viewer is fully entrenched in Henry’s unreliable mind. Though it is undoubtedly the intention to make the audience feel as lost as Henry, this becomes tiresome about halfway through the episode.
Blumhouse has become notorious for its gratuitous use of gore in its films, and, until now, Into the Dark was no exception. This episode, however, refrains from that and only uses mild physical violence, instead opting for violence of the psychological kind. While that could lead to a mind-bending Thriller, The Current Occupant uses the same settings and ideas too many times for them to be effective. The story plays with reality and time so often that it ends up being more confusing than intriguing, with no satisfying pay off.
The saving grace of The Current Occupant is in the performances and the high production value. Sonita Henry (Krypton series) especially shines as the unreadable Dr. Larson, and Marvin “Krondon” Jones III (Black Lightning series, Into the Spider-Verse 2018) is excellent as the overbearing orderly with undetectable intentions. The setting of the asylum is interesting if a little tropey, but the fact that it seems to exist outside of time and reality adds to the tone of the episode.
While it is admirable that The Current Occupant seems to strive to break away from the mold Into the Dark has created, it went too far to the other extreme and completely misses the quirky charm that makes Into the Dark so unique and enjoyable. Additionally, The Current Occupant unfortunately lacks the qualities of Blumhouse Horror and instead wants to be a Thriller, but fails to build suspense and deliver on what was a promising premise. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this episode 2.5 out of 5 stars.