Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'OCCUPANT' REVIEW: Thorsten Kaye, Van Hansis Just Two Guys from the Upper West Side... or Are They?

It's hard to write about a film that's as hard to watch as it is easy to spoil.

Although a transformed Thorsten Kaye is whimsical, credible, and aptly risible as helpful doorman Joe, and a heroic Van Hansis is winsome, passionate, and disarmingly empathetic as serendipitous heir Danny, after the world premiere of Occupant at the Gotham Film Festival last Friday, it's going to be a long time before I'll be able to talk shop with either thespian without secretly fending off the heebie-jeebies.

Occupant succeeds right where most movies with similar goals--to push cinematic boundaries, build spine-snapping suspense, and deliver electrifying horror--frequently disappoint. It's that place, about two-thirds of the way in, where, instead of peeling off into an overtly supernatural narrative cop-out, or cashing in its creativity for rivers of red glucose, Occupant intrepidly pushes on.

It would be cruel to spoil it for you (and besides, this is a family site) but an unfortunate series of events, deemed credible largely by the sheer virtuosity of Van's performance, culminates in a "money shot" that gives pause even in the 2011 Indie Film World.

Let me summarize the confession of a jaded, film-festival circuit-surfer during our audience Q&A:  "I've got to hand it to you, I've never done it before at one of these kind of films, but when [that which we shall not spoil, occurred], you made this grown man cry."  Sounds about right to me.  

Occupant is a treat for connoisseurs of scary movies, and for the rest of us, the simultaneous theater/DVD/video-on-demand release provides the opportunity to experience only as much as we care to, in the safety of our own homes, without having to forfeit the chance to enjoy two truly wonderful performances by Thorsten and Van.

My recommendation? Since Occupant is streaming on Netflix (and most cable/telco/satellite VOD services) starting today, go ahead and send the kids to grandma's, hold your loved one close, and keep the pause button close at hand. At the very least, you'll have the opportunity to appreciate two soap stars we love in a different light, and enjoy the classic, quirky-New-Yorky look and feel of "the first reel." If you're lucky(?), and brave, you might make it through the entire film--but how will you sleep tonight?

- The official Occupant site, including a list of VOD distributors.
- Roger Newcomb interviews Van Hansis in LA in WE LOVE SOAPS TV 2.29
- Damon L. Jacobs interviews Thorsten Kaye
-Roger Newcomb interviews Van Hansis on the set of AS THE WORLD TURNS in WE LOVE SOAPS TV 1.32

Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at welovesoaps.com writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email [email protected].


  1. Very well said, Kevin. can't think of much to add. as i told Van last night its hard to talk about a movie that keeps your brain working all the way through. Anything you say can be a spoiler so therefore its best to tread lightly. so many quewstions i want to ask...i think Thorsten and Van did well with what they were given to work with. I saw the film twice and I can't get my mind off of it

  2. LOL. I'm famous. I'm the "so called" a jaded, film-festival circuit-surfer!!! I'm not sure that's totally true, but I certainly am a jaded life long soap fan and a movie buff who would put Noah Mayer to shame.

    I agree with your review. The film is reminiscent of several great thrillers. Without giving anything away I will say that, in the Q & A, the audience referenced films from the 1960's and 1970's. Many current "so called' thrillers ask very few questions, and answer them all before the final credits roll. Not Occupant. It asks many questions, maybe too many,and probably answers too few of them. It leaves it's audience intrigued, and questioning. My two friends and I watched both screening (Friday and Sunday), and we still disagree on certain points. We saw the same scenes and interpreted them differently. I walked into the second screening determined to look for clues to confirm my initial conclusions. I found some of those, and also found other clues that called my conclusion into question. "Occupant" contains some excellent performances, particularly from Van Hansis and Thorsten Kaye. I'm familiar with their previous work,and thought I knew what to expect from them. Both actors surprised me.

    "Occupant" is an intriguing and interesting film. The one thing it definitely is not, is simple. In an era when so many filmmakers take few chances, it's refreshing to see a film that provokes such curiosity. When my DVD arrives I'll have to watch it again to see what else I can take from it. Maybe my theory of what actually happened may not be right after all.

  3. Lacon(Tom), I had to include you. You captured the room! Question: do you remember the name of the building on 86th ST they shot in? As Ilene mentioned, it's almost like another character...

  4. OI sent you an e-mail since I wasn't sure if I should post the actual address.

    I'm blushing at the idea that I captured the room. I'm very flattered by that. That was a particularly intense scene. A certain aspect of it hit close to home for me, and that scene brought everything back.