Imagine what would happen if you were forced, to be a participant in a questionable experiment? What would you do? In The Current Occupant Henry Cameron, an amnesiac who survived a shooting is coerced into an experiment to help cure his memory loss. Through leading questions and little hints, we find out Henry has built a wall around his mind, where reality and fiction blur. Dr. Larson played brilliantly by Sonita Henry, is an expert gaslighter. For unknown reasons, she wants to drive Henry mad. Is he part of a greater conspiracy, or is she?
“Do you believe it more likely that the President of the United States would wake up as a patient in a psychiatric hospital, or that a patient in a psychiatric hospital would wake up as the President of the United States?” Dr. Larson asks. Henry replies that neither is likely in a rational world. Henry’s growing fears about his surroundings prove accurate, and he finds that he no longer lives in a rational world. As his grip on reality wavers, we all begin to feel a little like we are in The Twilight Zone.
His fellow inmates both help and hurt his theory, with one claiming to be his Secretary of State, and another claiming to be an interstellar emperor. The episode poses an interesting question, is anyone who thinks themselves fit to run a country sane? Dr. Larson vaguely discusses this idea during her “ sessions” with Henry.”Is it fundamentally good to empower an individual over the masses?” she asks. Although the show doesn’t shove an answer in your face, it certainly hints that egoism is just a symptom of something worse.
I would have loved seeing the show dig deeper into this idea, but there is reason to leave it to the audience. The deliberate ambiguity left the viewer in a similar mindset as Henry. Just like Henry, we are left stunned, disbelieving, and lacking in agency. With the state of the nation already in disrepair, questioning our leadership comes quickly to mind. Everything is more transparent in hindsight, and so is the nature of our government. Henry doesn’t initially think he’s fit to be the President because it’s an absurd idea. He isn’t a narcissist, at least not until the end.
In the 19th century, the Great Man Theory gave wings to the previous version of leadership. This theory argues history can largely be explained through the impacts of great people; highly influential and unique individuals who, due to their natural prowess, have a decisive historical effect. This concept evolved into characteristic specific theories, which would define an individual’s adequacy by their traits. The next theory focussed on what the leader does rather than who they are. This helps contextualize their decisions, and of course, helps us make the right choice. Unfortunately for Henry, Dr. Larson has selected him for all the wrong traits and utilizes her manipulative skills.
Many currently believe in Management Theory. Where the success of the leader is made possible thanks to those that surround them. Similar to Participative Theory, where leadership is more democratic, the group builds up the leader and helps them make the best decision. The United States has the Cabinet. Ideally, the President puts smart people next to him or her so that he can be advised appropriately. Henry doesn’t have the benefit of wise counsel as he is literally confined with those who are insane or those who want to drive him insane.
In The Current Occupant, Henry doesn’t live in a rational world. He is forced to kill his only ally, his “Secretary of State” and starts spiraling down in further denial. When he steps out from the elevator at the end, it will just be another floor to the hospital, rather than the White House. Henry’s lack of autonomy helps the audience relate to the story. His rulers are unthinking, uncaring, and will not be bargained with. It’s how most of us feel about the pandemic. It’s unconscious, unreasonable, and it’s unavoidable. Our uncertainty about our future can easily be compared with the despair Henry feels.
This addition to Blum Houses’ series Into the Dark is a lot different than its predecessors, where its previous twists and turns almost seemed cathartic. The Current Occupant leaves you feeling despondent. This has lead to a lot of bad reviews, but I think they miss the point. This installment is designed to disturb. Horror often is. Themes are hammered regularly in this film, and there is no clear resolution. It’s true. The Current Occupant doesn’t shy away from its overt themes, but it allows the viewer to shape their own narrative. My one complaint is the film doesn’t build on the story of Henry Cameron. It can make everything that happens to him, confusing instead of enlightening.
In an irrational world, anything is possible. As much as we want Henry to be the President, he isn’t. He is just a poor schmoe being tricked by those he should be able to trust the most. As a result, we, as an audience, become quickly attached to Henry emotionally, especially with help from great performances. Barry Watson’ s(Henry) performance makes it incredibly easy to empathize with his hopeless situation while Sonita Henry(Dr. Larson is cooly indifferent to his suffering. She makes the most of the icy academic she is supposed to be. The orderly Marvin Jones III from CW’s Black Lightning is menacing and sadistic. His treatment of Henry drives the growing paranoia.
Hulu’s Into The Dark The Current Occupant may not be for everyone but for those feeling helpless and scared it’s an all too real possibility. When a reality star can be President anything is possible. We don’t live in a rational world anymore. Catch The Current Occupant streaming on Hulu now.
Obsessed with the old gods and everything that resembles Lovecraft, Zach spends his days exploring the twists of horror films and can’t wait to discuss the latest explanations of any story