For anyone like me who take interest in the concept of parallel worlds, director Russell Emanuel embraces the found footage sub-genre while also dodging the gimmicky trappings in favor of a much more intelligent genre title involving the scientific idea. “Occupants” explores the theory of parallel realities, and how it’s theorized our lives can align with alternate versions of ourselves. Much like “Paranormal Activity,” Emanuel sets his film primarily in one setting, but the similarities end there. Emanuel has his finger on the pulse of science fiction, exploring a realm where every movement is intricate and our characters begin to dabble in the God Complex resulting in some absolutely horrendous consequences.
Annie and Neill is a newly married couple both of whom lead vastly different lives. Young Annie is an aspiring documentarian who begins an experiment with husband Neill in exploring how their lives would be affected by living on a Vegan diet consisting solely of raw uncooked food and water. Annie thinks the experiment will not only open them up to new horizons and make them healthy, but has heard that some Vegans could even peek in to alternate realities by reaching a new state of mind. At first the experiment goes as expected, with the couple slowly starving and losing patience in a lifestyle that doesn’t involve junk food and caffeine, but when Annie sets up cameras around her house to chart their lifestyle, she suddenly begins filming a whole other version of her house altogether.
What seems like a freak occurrence suddenly turns in to a mind blowing discovery, as the couple realizes there is an alternate world where alternate versions of themselves are living, oblivious to their presence. Occupying the same space ultimately begins to form a conflict of interest, especially for Annie who watches a dramatic development unfold and takes it upon herself to intervene. “Occupants” takes a heavy duty look in to the realm of alternate worlds and theorizes that perhaps we live our lives in a different reality that can somehow reflect and or impact our current one. The world we see beyond Annie and Neill’s isn’t so much a bizarro world; so much as it is a very vague reflection with minor alterations that have immense impact on the young couple.
Director Emanuel is very good about drawing tension, bringing our guard down with a seemingly mundane set up with Neill and Annie that slowly snowballs in to a situation that they have to figure out how to completely eliminate lest it hurt them in ways they can’t imagine. Briana White and Michael Pugliese are absolutely exceptional, playing dual roles in the film as the unsuspecting couple, and the mirror versions of themselves that remain eerily enigmatic until the very end. They convey remarkable chemistry as a couple which increase the stakes as “Occupants” grows ever more suspenseful. There’s also the great Robert Picardo, who gives a very good supporting performances as a professor who helps Neill and Annie try to comprehend what’s happening to them and how to confront their increasingly harrowing situation.
Emanuel is at his best here, offering a found footage film that’s mostly for the science fiction audience, excelling in conveying ideas about alternate worlds, and parallel realities, as well as the possibility we could go too far and hurt our own dimension. “Occupants” is a tense and very eerie thriller that Emanuel and writer Julia Camara crafts in to an entertaining and absolutely compelling film.