The approach of the Fourth of July this year hit differently. While 2020 has been one of the worst years in modern history, what’s happening in the United States politically has put all of us on edge. It is clear that the political institutions that are in place can no longer hide how little it serves the population. And, when its flaws are exploited, there is an inadvertent, harmful impact on anything it touches. Taking the concept of the bureaucratic institution and infusing it with mindfuckery and conspiracies, INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT darkly highlights the destruction bureaucracies bring to the little people and will have you questioning reality all the way to the end credits.
As I aim to do in each Into The Dark review, I will keep potential spoilers to a minimum. INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT, the latest installment of Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into The Dark series, focuses on an amnesiac man, Henry Cameron (Barry Watson), wakes up to find himself in a hospital setting. He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. All he knows is that he’s been shot. Growing suspicions towards the staff are further triggered after an encounter with a woman (Lilli Birdsell) from the psych ward have him come to the conclusion that he is the President of the United States. At his insistence of this truth, he is thrown into the psych ward by his psychiatrist (Sonita Henry) and kept in check by his handler (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III). A growing conspiracy takes hold of the man as he undergoes tests as part of his treatment that progressively defies ethics. Is everything he believes to be happening, in fact, the truth or is he really a mad man just trapped in an unethical psychiatric institution?
Before anyone starts launching into how horrible it is that horror has become so political, here’s a newsflash. Horror, as a genre, has always been political. And, in an installment that loosely focuses on Independence Day, there is no way you are going to escape any mention of politics. With all of that said, this may be the darkest installment of this season yet following Into The Dark: Pilgrim. While the first season of the horror anthology series had a mixture of tones, genre leanings, and the like, this current season’s installments have mostly embraced the horror-comedy genre. INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT sets itself apart in the anthology by embracing more of a psychological thriller vibe. And, while some might argue that its embrace of the psychological and bleakness weighs the installment down, I’d say it creates something different and less predictable than previous episodic installments.
Directed by Julius Ramsay and based on a script by Alston Ramsay, it is clear how much INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT benefits from Alston’s experience working as a speechwriter in D.C. While asking the question of whether or not it’s easier to believe that the president has been forcibly locked away in an institution, there are enough details sprinkled throughout the script that could only be acquired through intimate political experience that helps create that mindfuckery I mentioned earlier. As more layers are peeled away, it becomes progressively more difficult to gauge what is the truth as Barry Watson’s Henry Cameron finds his own reality unraveling with each treatment session. Grappling with themes dealing with the loss of personal power, the destructive power of institutions, and the like, this is a fairly strong installment to the Into The Dark series.
What makes INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT shine, however, is the performances delivered by the cast. Barry Watson delivers a performance that will hit the empathy buttons inside viewers as they watch his Henry Cameron gradually descend into madness onscreen. Sonita Henry’s psychiatrist is stonefaced and mysterious, forcing the viewers to try to figure out what exactly is her end game in all of this. She creates a compelling villain for Henry Cameron. Lilli Birdsell’s Helen serves as a way for the viewer to acquire the information necessary to make us wonder whether there is an actual conspiracy or not. Her serving as the righthand woman of Henry Cameron also helps make his truth feel more plausible to the viewer as things play out. And, to cap it all off, Marvin Jones III nails the creepiness factor as the Orderly, creating a sense of unease as he claims to be on Henry’s side while having no problem utilizing their power imbalances to keep Henry in his place. All of their performances come together to amplify the psychological thriller factor in INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT.
With all of this being said, there were a lot of questions that I found myself asking while the credits were rolling. And a lot of that boils down to the fact that the script and the performances came together to really make us question what is the actual honest narrative in INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT. While the latest Into The Dark installment is bleak and will crush your hopes, it’ll have you wondering about conspiracies, reality, and what really happens when the institutions that are established to help us actually end up harming us instead. I may be the outlier in this, but I do recommend watching this installment. I just recommend following your viewing of it with something lighter and spirit-reviving afterward.
INTO THE DARK: THE CURRENT OCCUPANT is now available for viewing on Hulu.