I missed most of the Thursday showings because I was traveling to and from Plano for a screening of Happy Feet Two. That movie left me very much in the mood to watch something dark and disturbing, and Mollie Binkley's psychological thriller Occupied seemed to fit the bill. Even better, the start was delayed by some technical glitches, so I was able to catch the whole thing. Unfortunately, I found a movie that managed to be both incredibly obvious and frustratingly vague, no small achievement.
Liza Binkley stars as a 20-year-old USC student named Sarah who's gone to babysit her 12-year-old cousin (Lucy Bock) in a house in the woods outside of Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, Sarah is suffering from schizophrenic delusions and survivor's guilt (over a boyfriend's death) that results in her becoming a danger to both of them. Sarah's backstory is left sketched in, and I was craving more information about how her illness was manifesting itself before, or the particulars of her family situation. I liked Liza Binkley's performance in the film's initial stages, though by the end of the film she goes well over the top. Much of the film is shot through surveillance cameras placed inside the house, but instead of creating an atmosphere of paranoia, it just seems like a rip-off of the Paranormal Activity films. The musical cues underline every source of danger (though it wasn't helped by the theater, which cranked the sound so that the cellos and basses in the orchestra were rumbling through your soul), and all the montages meant to represent Sarah's madness turn into a repetitive tic. In short, Black Swan this isn't. -- Kristian Lin