Review: Occupant (2011)

Occupant (2011)
Director: Henry Miller
Writer: Jonathan Brett
Stars: Van Hansis. Cody Horn, Thorsten Kaye

Occupant begins with the death of an old woman in her apartment. She shakes around, gasps, coughs, and finally kicks the bucket.  We have our title and credits on display and the movie begins to chug along.  The scene isn’t particularly frightening, in fact, it's pretty goofy. 

The setup goes as such; the old woman’s grandson, Danny, arrives to confirm the death of his long estranged grandmother.  When, at her apartment, he discovers that it's rent controlled on the lease and obscenely cheap, considering it has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, living room, dinning room, and a kitchen.  Or, we’re told that’s how big it is; we hardly see more than 4 rooms the whole time.  

The, at first, apprehensive and grumpy Danny is told that if he can stay in the apartment for 12 days without leaving he becomes the lease holder in the eyes of the law and it remains rent controlled.  Once he finds out… he still doesn’t seem to really give a damn.  Until the aggressively friendly doorman and lawyer convince him he should stay… hell they even make arrangements for him, deliver his food, and help him avoid being kicked out.  The entire plot relies on a New York doorman and a New York lawyer selflessly trying to get a 20 something guy a nice apartment on the cheap.  Next time I go house hunting, I want that kind of representation.  Yet this guy kind of treats them like shit anyways.  He’s such a passive character he even starts painting the apartment and stops after like 3 minutes, leaving a few red blotches for the whole movie, which makes it just that much more a chore to get through.

- Sir anything you need, I will get you.
- Hey f*ck off man, don’t be pressuring me into the best situation ever.

Danny’s also got himself a sexy, blonde, web stalker, she first appears when Danny’s on the way to his grandma.  She videotapes him and follows him around a bit before they flirt.  She comes back again, because we need a female presence in the movie, saying she tricked the doorman into letting her in. It’s not creepy because A. She’s hot.  B. She has whiskey.  They hang out, have dinner, have sex, and then she films herself going through all his stuff, for her “stalk blog.” She treats it like an episode of “MTV Room Raiders” but… it’s not his stuff… it’s his dead grandmother’s…ok.
- Hey how’d you know where I lived?
We only met once, when you told me you run a “stalk blog.”
- Don’t worry about that, I’m pretty.
I’m just here to judge you based on this dead lady's stuff.

Occupant sets up a lot of potential scares and even more possible resolutions as Danny slowly goes unhinged.  Is the building owner trying to scare him away?  Is the doorman preparing to kill him?  Is it all a plot by stalker-cam girl? Is there a monster in the closet?  Is the apartment haunted? However, what the movie fails to see is setting up all these scary possibilities doesn’t actually make it scary.  Especially when the protagonist has no desire to actually do anything.  It would be scarier if something started to actually happen. Instead, we have a repeat of the stalker girl set up.  Someone comes to the door, we build to a scare, and we cut away to the next day. 

Sure, there are a few good moments. A dark figure standing in the background here or there is actually pretty spooky. Watching a totally unhinged Danny build death traps near the end is pretty fun, because he is actually doing something proactive.  The atmosphere built in the apartment is decent, and the film is shot better than it has any right to be.  There’s just barely enough good to make you sit through it thinking there will be a decent pay off.  But… no… they even tell you the ending right as Danny starts to hit on his stalker girl.  Sadly. It turns out Danny was just crazy!

I don’t know why I even bothered to think otherwise.

After Danny’s suicide by a door filled with nails… yeah that happened and it was hilarious and awful. We watch a new family move into the apartment.  We can only assume that it’s no longer rent controlled.  A little kid finds stalker girl's camera (which was left there because?) and watches the footage and what he sees is terrifying.  No, it’s not the sex tape they made. Just footage of Danny killing and hiding the girl’s dead body!  Then the door buzzer rings and the kid looks at the door in fear.  We close the movie. 

The movie leaves so many unanswered questions, sets up so many cool little things, and then fails to deliver on any of it.  Outside of a few cool shots and the doorman’s funny facial hair there is nothing redeeming about this movie.  Just skip it.

Hello, I’m your friendly doorman… and this is my mustache. 

- Will Woolery

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