'Into the Dark: The Current Occupant' Review: Psychological thriller on US president fails to frighten
It's hard to say what exactly goes wrong with the Independence Day-related horror
Spoilers for 'Into the Dark: The Current Occupant'
Over the last two years or so, Hulu and Blumhouse's joint collab 'Into the Dark' has released some 20-odd independent feature-length horrors that make its monthly, holiday focused anthology format. While some of them have proven to be wonders in the genre, others have been disastrous, to the point where acknowledging them as part of the series seems unfit. For the most part, campy horror comedies seem to have done really well for the show; with certain exceptions of course. But almost every time the show had digressed from its satirical humor and tried becoming a typical horror, the result hasn't worked in their favor. Unfortunately, the Independence Day-pegged July installment 'The Current Occupant' falls in that category.
The story revolves around Henry Cameron (Barry Watson) who finds himself admitted at a psychiatric ward with no memories of his past life. Growing suspicion surrounding the staff at the facility leads him to believe that he may or may not be president of the United States, admitted here under some conspiracy. The set up is quite compelling, what could be more entertaining than a mad president in these times, right? Sadly, the feature turns out to be bleak and unimpressive in equal parts, a total disappointment for all the potential the plot promises.
As far as the signature 'Into the Dark' comedy goes, 'The Current Occupant' is armed with just a handful of them — spaced out so far apart that the ride in between gets tedious. One would expect what it lacks in humor, it would make up in horror, but the July release does neither. It gets ambitious with its elements of psychological horror, but there isn't any spine-chilling or thought-provoking development to keep one glued to the screen the way some of Into the Dark's most flaccid releases have even achieved.
It is only when it comes to the cast that 'The Current Occupant' shines through and through, in classic 'Into the Dark' style. Roping in audience with its captivating emotions, it's hard to not feel sorry for Cameron as he spirals down a hopeless labyrinth with nobody coming to his aid. Sonita Henry's cruel, stone-cold Doctor Larson is impossible to overlook as the actress makes her presence felt even in scenes where she isn't present, primarily because the guesswork surrounding her true intentions is a constant theme. The whole creepy, eerie asylum vibe is something that sets really well into Blumhouse's structure for good horror. Known for productions like 'The Purge', and 'The Paranormal Activity' franchise, Jason Blum's mind just knows how to make the littlest of things send the most intense of shivers and that is one of the only salient respites of the film.
Directed by Julius Ramsay, based on a script from Alstan Ramsay, it's hard to say what exactly goes wrong with 'The Current Occupant'. The cast is compelling, Blumhouse's signature style runs in favor of the story, yet somehow it just doesn't land the way past installments like 'Pooka!', 'Pure', or even 'All That We Destroy' have. But at the end of the day, it is a psychological thriller and what horrifies the psyche is very, very subjective. Give it a shot anyway. You never know, you might end up liking it purely for how sorry you feel for this possible-president.
'Into the Dark: The Current Occupant' premiers this Friday, July 17, only on Hulu.