Still relatively fresh from the success of 2010’s 'Julia’s Eyes', which he co-wrote, Oriol Paulo has taken up the mantle of writer-director with 'The Body', another atmospheric horror-thriller, this time inspired by the scenario: "what if a body mysteriously disappeared from the morgue?"
When a night guard at the morgue flees his post in terror, only to be mown down by a passing car, leaving him in a deep coma, it falls to detective Peña (José Coronado) to investigate exactly what happened – starting with the exceptionally shifty husband of the deceased, Álex Ulloa (Hugo Silva).
A self-confessed Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie fanatic, Paulo has clearly drawn inspiration from their work in the crafting of 'The Body', which incorporates many Hitchcockian flourishes, particularly in the build-up of claustrophobic tension and suspense, as well as noir-esque motifs – the femme fatale, the jaded detective dogged by a tragic past, and the shady suspect at the heart of the mystery.
Much of the action takes place within the confines of the morgue; a wonderfully eerie, dank and mildewed setting that lends itself well to the sort of bumps and shocks that Paulo delivers with precision. Smoothly timed flashback sequences keep the film from becoming visually monotonous however, as well as heightening the sense of intrigue, offering fleeting glimpses of Álex’s life with wife Mayka (Belén Rueda), an unsettlingly capricious, fey-like woman with a passion for pranks – played extremely well by Rueda.
Whilst elements of 'The Body' may stray past homage and into cliché territory; the compelling performances from the cast, the brilliant flashes of black humour and Paulo’s flair for storytelling and misdirection help to offset the sense of déjà vu.
It’s difficult to discuss the finer points of the story without spoiling the fiendishly clever sleight of hand at the end, which packs quite a punch in spite of its (mildly) glaring implausibility – but if you don’t squint too hard at the plot holes, this film really is thoroughly entertaining and great fun.
'The Body'/'El Cuerpo' screened at the 56th BFI London Film Festival in 2012. UK release to be confirmed.