Friday, May 16, 2014

The Occupants



 

**½

“They’re inside of the house…they’re inside of me.”
While watching The Occupants, “demons of the mind” was what I thought as an apt description regarding the film’s title lead actress’ character. Supposedly her house (shared with her “husband”, Wade) is haunted by a family in crisis (a father wanting his family members to tell him where his other daughter is, an obviously abusive man with a hammer and pent up hostility) and she is persistent in getting a grip on how to “stop the cycle” and get rid of them by solving it.

This film deals with trauma from the past, latent and kept locked away, but eventually such memory has a way of surfacing from its dormancy. Lucy, a psychologist, was mentored by a psychiatrist she had a sexual relationship with. Lucy has a way of holding that over him. Wade is everything she could possibly want in a husband. Caring, thoughtful, affectionate, a good listener, a fine father, and sympathetic to Lucy’s disturbia; Wade is the ideal partner. He’s experiencing dreams similar to hers. An abusive father, his harmed wife and daughter with corpse-like appearances are what Lucy and Wade see. Their child seems to be a device in the plot ready-made for an influx of suspense later to be milked for as much potency as possible. Lots of “breathing down your neck” score attempting to heighten the hysterics of Lucy as her mental state deteriorates and emotional upheaval weighing upon her heavily takes its toll.

Suppression of trauma and its awakening is very real if you are one of the unlucky ones to have experienced something quite horrific as a child or during your youth, having a mechanism that closes it off so that life can go on without remaining entrapped in misery, collapsed into a fetal position every day because of it. Lucy believes the ghosts can be removed from her home and dealt with therapeutically by finding the girl the father seeks after. But ultimately the ghosts are intimately linked to Lucy and this symbiosis will send her irreparably careening into the abyss.

Despite the confines of a low budget, those involved in the making of The Occupants are ambitious despite their limitations. I appreciated the effort in telling a story of a downward spiral and how we are privy to her trip into darkness. With these big, beautiful eyes, Christin Milioti has her close up and so much pain and confusion, anxiety and terror fills them up. The house, to me, eventually feels like a type of tomb that serves only as a cell of terrible history with those from deep in the subconscious uncaged now and emerging to torment Milioti’s Lucy. Eventually no matter where she runs, confrontation of what anyone of us would wish to stay away from is inevitable.

I have seen films deal with a twist that serves as a “A-ha” moment that makes sense considering how Milioti acts towards her mentor, also explaining why he’s ambiguous and enigmatic when opposed by her anger and aggression towards him due to his perceived jealousy and disappointment in their relationship souring. She continues to seek his advice and help but when he offers to put her under hypnosis and request a session, Lucy resists and fights him off. Ultimately, their time together and purpose in the story has greater meaning.

This isn’t a film with knock-your-socks-off special effects. The “ghosts” are lo-fi and presented as foggy replications of memory’s figments re-surfacing. Primarily 85 % of the film is set in her sunny LA home, where even the night scenes are not particularly ominous. I didn’t find this scary in the least, but I did admire the psychological approach to the character of Lucy. I think the ambition is defeated by the lack of money and means, but the effort didn’t go unnoticed just the same.

http://brianscarecrow88.tumblr.com/post/86000318786/the-occupants
http://brianscarecrow88.tumblr.com/post/85995164071/the-occupants

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