I have often wondered why there’s an abundance of Spanish content on the Netflix India catalog. Is it their cultural representation that feels overall similar or something else? Recently, I realized the reason behind this constant occurance. These low-key Spanish thrillers (sans The Invisible Guest, The Body) often scan over proper character buildup in the lure of a surface level thriller that pushes its sinister horns a level higher than they actually should. In Netflix’s latest presentation – the Parasite-esque domestic thriller “The Occupant (Hogar)” an out of work advertiser plots a dirty scheme to take his home back.
In what one would call a proper track of being a has-been, Javier (Javier Gutierrez) is out looking for a new job. He was once a prolific marketer who made TV commercials that really stuck with you. As we come out of a frame that opens the film, we understand that his work is under scrutiny. His style is outdated and the placid ‘hip-culture’ has taken over. He is on the verge of signing into an internship, but even there, he is dismissed because his resume is too good to be true. At the end of the day, his life is in shambles. His biggest fear is losing out on the one thing that truly makes his day. His uber-furnished Barcelona flat that provides a wide-angled view of the city is about to get tarnished from his possession. In spite of his loyal wife Marga (Ruth Diaz) taking up a retail job and his son shifting to a private school, they can no longer afford the comforts of this beautiful place.
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Javier is forced to shift to the rental unit in El Carmel neighborhood where he starts living a life of a ‘middle-class’ man. However, his no-longer affordable BMW and the irritating kitchen sink tap start getting on his nerve. His anger slowly starts taking control of him and a few incidents showcase how the step down in class is really affecting his sanity. Luckily, he stumbles onto a spare key of his old apartment. As a curious person with nothing better to do than going through a slide-show of job interviews, Javier breaks in. After a few more attempts at doing the little sneak-in, he starts getting obsessed with the new family that has inhibited the flat. He sure misses the capitalistic riches of the high-end society he was a part of.
As the film moves further, Javier’s moral compass transfixes on the highs of his previous life. His obsession with the current tenant slowly traps him in a kind of rhythmic paranoia. Except, here, he is not the one losing himself. On the contrary, Javier’s character is in complete control of the various situations he gets involved in. He starts plotting little secretive notions for his wife and becomes friends with the new tenant Tomás (Mario Casas). Tomás has a drinking problem and Javier – because of his stalking abilities, finds a clue into his vulnerable state. To start off with his escalated desire for the life of supreme, he lies and joins Tomás’s AA meetings. He even manages to slyly get him to be his sponsor. However, since his intentions are pretty clear, things start escalating. First, he finds a way to officially invite himself into his old home and then damnation ensues.
The Occupant (Hogar) is an insidious film with a very thin thematic semblance. If the writer/director duo David Pastor and Àlex Pastor tried, they could have turned this into something that truly stayed with you. The psychotic tendencies of Javier are based on his frustration with the establishment. However, it also comes from having held the silver-spoon for a long time. This could have been churned into a thriller that did what it’s most recent counterpart – the South Korean Oscar winner did. However, the directors resort to a somewhat convoluted narrative thread leaving the more meaty themes out of the picture. The film hence just stays a surface level drama about the need for perfection and the greed of having a better life.
Also, Read – The Platform  Netflix Review – A Fiendishly Entertaining Allegory on Social Inequality
One of the main reasons why “The Occupant (Hogar)” works is Javier Gutierrez’s dedicated performance as the psychopathic, dejected advertiser who would go to any heights to get what he wants. His manipulative, lying persona feels like something that splurges out of a mid-life crisis but Gutierrez makes it feel organic. Sadly, the writing gets more and more convoluted once the realistic aspect of his frustration goes out of the window and an unruly creepiness takes over. The film keeps you engaged and the ending of “The Occupant (Hogar)” is certainly one that would make you either revalue your time or make you think of the consequences of holding people responsible for actions that do not define them. In any case, the film does what it is supposed to do – i.e keep you cheering for the bad guy because life gave him lemons and there’s nothing tastier than lemonade made of fresh, bottled water.