Hulu Horror Double Feature: Occupant and Knife Edge

Okay, it’s Sunday, I’m hung over and don’t really feel like moving around too much, so that must mean it’s time for me to zone out in front of a couple random horror flicks on Hulu and then pass the savings on to you. So here we go.

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First up, Occupant from 2011. I just picked this one because the cover looked eerie and interesting, and I got lucky, because it turned out to be a great choice. As I was watching it, I was reminded very strongly of Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (and Repulsion, to a lesser extent), which is a very good thing, and afterwards I was browsing some other reviews of it and noticed that pretty much everyone else had also picked up on the resemblance. However, it seemed like most of the other reviewers thought the film was just mediocre or left too many unanswered questions. I had a much different opinion.

The setup is basically this: Danny is a New Yorker who is summoned to his grandmother’s huge, beautiful apartment after she dies of a heart attack. The aggressively helpful doorman Joe tells Danny that the apartment was rent-controlled; granny was only paying $675 a month for a 3,500-square-foot Manhattan showplace that would easily go for ten grand a month on today’s market. Joe sets up a meeting with a lawyer friend, and the lawyer tells Danny that if he is willing to essentially squat in the apartment for twelve days until a court order comes through granting him legal tenancy, then Danny can have the apartment at the same crazy-low rent, since Danny is the grandmother’s only living relative. The only catch is, the building management will obviously not be happy with this little loophole arrangement, so Danny cannot leave the apartment for any reason until he gets the court order, or the management will lock him out. Joe and the lawyer tell Danny to lock himself into the apartment and not let anyone in until everything is sorted. In the meantime, Joe will bring him groceries and anything else he might need. Danny, knowing a great fucking deal when he sees one, agrees.

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And then, because this is a horror movie, things start to get strange. I don’t want to spoil too much (though I can’t really help but spoil it a little bit), because I do recommend you guys watch it, but if you saw The Tenant, you know what kind of creepy, ambiguous vibe you can expect. Just like in the Polanski film, you’re really not sure if there’s something supernatural going on in the apartment, if Danny is simply losing his mind due to cabin fever and lack of sufficient human interaction, if Joe and the lawyer are messing with his head for some bizarre reason, or if it’s some combination of those scenarios. Everyone Danny interacts with is shifty and weird, and there seemingly isn’t any reason for it. There are lots of little unexplained details that could suggest any number of things, and although a lot of reviewers complained about these, I actually thought they were very effective in making the movie such a riveting, unsettling experience. For instance, why was Joe so adamant that Danny live in the apartment, and what was with his oddly paternalistic and almost sexual interest in Danny? What was up with the girl that was “stalking” him for her vlog? What was up with the painter who fell to his death? Why were there scratch marks on the headboard of his grandmother’s bed? Did his grandmother really die of a heart attack? What was with the mobbed-up exterminator guy, and why did he spray the cat with insecticide? Were the cable guy and pizza guy really there because Danny called them and forgot, or was someone sending them there to lure him out? What was with that hole in the wall in the closet that looked like it was breathing? What about the neighbor who claimed he’d met Danny before, even though Danny didn’t remember it? Nothing is as it seems, and none of the weirdness really has any definitive answers. That might piss some people off, but I found it intriguing, and in fact, the whole WTF vibe of the movie was actually my favorite thing about it; it was all so pleasantly disorienting and claustrophobic. Polanski comparisons aside, it actually also reminded me of one of my own short stories that I wrote many years ago, called “Three Stories Down” (available in my Associated Villainies collection), in which I tried to conjure up a similar surrealistic feeling (also in an apartment building setting, as it happens) without really explaining anything outright.

In sum, I heartily recommend this to Polanski fans, or people who like their horror with a healthy dollop of psychological ambiguity and don’t need everything to be clear cut.


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Next up is a British supernatural-type thriller, Knife Edge from 2009. It’s about an English woman named Emma who leaves her job as a hotshot Wall Street stockbroker after marrying a wealthy Frenchman named Henri. Henri takes Emma and her son from a previous marriage Thomas back to England to live in a massive country mansion he purchased three years previously. Once there, Emma begins to see visions and hear things in the house that lead her to believe that it is haunted. Henri doesn’t believe her, the marriage starts to fall apart, and then things get really convoluted and increasingly ridiculous until it all ends with an over-the-top kinda murdery flourish.

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This one actually wasn’t bad; I enjoyed it and the mystery kept me interested all the way through. Director Anthony Hickox has done some work in the horror genre before (Waxwork and Hellraiser 3, for example), and I guess this was something of an anticipated return to form for him, but I definitely felt like something was lacking with this film. The acting was pretty uneven, and the pacing felt a bit strange, too rushed in places where more depth would have been appreciated. The premise also wasn’t terribly original, it must be said; there was the standard old British mansion, creepy dolls and trees, a kid’s “imaginary” friend, psychic visions of a past tragedy, the unclear motives of everyone around the protagonist. The answer to the mystery, while I didn’t completely figure it out beforehand, strained my credulity a bit; it just seemed far too complicated and silly a scheme to ever work the way it was supposed to. There were some decent scares, a bit of gore, and some nicely eerie imagery, but overall I found it just sort of middle-of-the-road. I’d recommend it if you’re into British murder mysteries and don’t mind some overwrought melodrama; you’ll probably enjoy it if you don’t expect too much. It honestly seemed more like an episode of a mystery-type TV show than a movie. If that doesn’t turn you off, then by all means, knock yourself out.

That’s all for this double feature installment. Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.

Hulu Horror Double Feature: House of Last Things and Reverb

‘Sup, minions! I’m back once again for the third installment of my Hulu Horror Double Feature series, which if you haven’t been following it began here and continued here. This’ll probably be the last time I link to the older installments in the current installment, though, because you guys know how the internet works and can probably find previous installments on your own from now on. You don’t need me to hold your hand, now, do you? Thought not. Anyway, off we go.

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First up on this particular double bill is House of Last Things from 2013, which was written and directed by Michael Bartlett. I can see this movie being the kind of thing that inspires either adoration or contemptuous eye-rolling in the horror community, with fans of more traditional horror maybe thinking it’s too pretentious for its own good, or weird for weirdness’s sake, but I have to tell you, I thought it was dynamite. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into it, but it honestly just sucked me in, and even though I’m not entirely certain what it all meant, I remained fascinated from start to finish.

The setup of the film is rather mundane: Classical music writer Alan Dunne and his wife Sarah—who has just been released from a mental hospital after an undisclosed tragedy—take off for Italy, ostensibly to try to put their lives back together. Alan has hired trailer-trash hottie Kelly to house-sit while they are gone, and predictably, no sooner have the Dunnes toddled off to the airport than Kelly has allowed her mentally challenged brother Tim and her dirtbag boyfriend Jesse to move into the urbane couple’s home to keep her company.

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It’s here, though, where the movie begins to get interesting. The way it’s shot is very dreamlike, seemingly going back and forth in time and location, drawing parallels between the Dunnes’ marital breakdown in Italy and the bizarre dynamics of the three people occupying the home in their absence. Things get even weirder when Jesse impulsively kidnaps a boy he finds abandoned in front of a grocery store; although he initially tells Kelly he took the boy to get a ransom from his parents, it soon becomes clear that the boy doesn’t seem in any hurry to leave the house, and further, that no one appears to be looking for him. The mystery gets deeper and deeper, reality becomes murkier and murkier. Who is the boy? What happened to send Sarah to the mental hospital? Is the house haunted, and if so, by what? Why do the identities of the Dunnes and the house-sitters appear to be melding and switching? There are really no clear answers, and while some viewers may find this frustrating, I found myself utterly intrigued, since as most of my previous reviews on this blog have detailed, I do love unsettling, ambiguous films like this.

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In fact, House of Last Things, with its off-kilter suburban surrealism, reminded me very strongly of a David Lynch film, with perhaps hints of Roman Polanski thrown in. The whole film is just so alluringly strange, with beautifully nightmarish imagery, overlapping identities and timelines, and copious symbolism, threaded through with Verdi’s Rigoletto and the Biblical Garden of Eden. As with a few other movies I’ve done in this series, I hesitate to call this a horror film; I suppose it’s a ghost story of a sort, but on the whole it’s rather hard to classify. Recommended if your tastes run to more surreal, mysterious, or art-house fare, this movie leaves an eerie impression that lingers long after the end credits roll.


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Structured far more like a standard horror film, but also far less interesting, the second film in the lineup was a British one, Reverb, from 2009. It deals with a churlish musician named Alex who has lost his musical mojo after the breakup of his band and his relationship. His friend and co-worker Maddy pulls some strings and gets him a couple overnights at a nearby studio so he can work on a new track that he hopes will restart his flagging career. As the night wears on, Maddy begins hearing weird noises around the studio and on the recordings they’re making, and after doing some research into a mysterious song that Alex wants to sample, becomes convinced that some creepy occult shit happened in the studio back in the 1970s and that Alex is in danger. Things go fairly predictably from there.

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Honestly, this one wasn’t terrible, but I can’t say there was much to it either, and my patience with it was tested several times. It seemed like a huge chunk of its running time consisted of Maddy creeping around the darkened studio listening to distorted screams and growls, or Alex staring at his reflection in the bathroom and getting flashes of blood and lyrics written on his skin, set to jarring musical stings. The movie was mediocre, and the plot paper thin, but the director was clearly trying to make it seem scarier and more “edgy” by doing these annoying flashing edits of disturbing imagery. There was so much of it that it really just got boring and silly after a while.

It wasn’t a total waste of time; the actors were fine, though there wasn’t really enough characterization or back story to really make me care about what happened to them. The use of sound was fairly effective, though it would have worked better if it had been reined in some. Even the premise of occult forces summoned through music could have been pretty cool if it had been given more substance and scope. But so much of the movie was set in one location with just a couple of characters, and it just got repetitive; on top of that, the ending brought absolutely no surprises. Like I said, not awful, but not that good either. Just a big ol’ meh. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

And that’s all for this installment, folks. Until next time, keep it creepy, my friends. Goddess out.