Another week closer to Christmas… and time for yet another Review. This time out I had planned to look at the second of the “Thanksgiving Night Movie Fest” films we saw over the holiday, but… then this one ended up in my DVD player one cold snowy evening and just plain blew that idea away. So instead… it’s off to rainy Spain for a look at director Oriol Paulo’s new suspense/ thriller “El Cuerpo” aka “The Body”.
Our synopsis goes as follows: “El Cuerpo” brings a heady mix of classic film noir, blood-chilling horror and high suspense, as the film follows a worn out veteran police detective as he begins an investigation of a mysterious break-in at the city morgue, the accidental hit-and-run of a guard, and searches for a corpse that has gone missing one dark and stormy night. Why has the corpse disappeared? Was the woman murdered? Was her distraught husband behind it all? Or is there some other sinister plot behind the disappearance of the body?”
Less of a horror film than my usual pick for movie fun, “El Cuerpo” might be a Hitchcock-style murder mystery, but the Trailer certainly hints that there’s much more going on throughout than in the usual “whodunit”. A whole lot more… Yep, I suspected this one might just be this wee kitty’s idea of cinema fun with a heapin’ helping of goosebumps thrown in for good measure. Now that a good English subtitled Region 2 version has shown up in the UK it’s only natural to give it a try. Wanna hear those details? Then you know exactly what you have to do, o’ Gentle Visitor…. 😉
Our story gets going on one of those classic mystery story hackneyed plot element “dark and stormy nights”…. as a night watchman runs through a shadowy wood, so terrified that he stumbles onto a road just in time to get run over by a passing motorist’s car. It’s not long before the poor guy is in the casualty ward of the local hospital… barely alive and in a deep coma. Police are called to the scene and find he’s the only watchman on duty at the city morgue. Why then was he running in terror through the woods near the morgue? A quick search of the morgue can find no explanation for his actions… except that a single body, that of powerful influential businesswoman Mayka Villaverde (played by Belén Rueda) who died earlier that very day of heart failure, has inexplicably gone missing. Disappeared completely without a trace. Like she just got up and walked away…. but that’s impossible… right?
Figuring that out falls to veteran police inspector Jaime Peña (played by José Coronado)… a worn, tired looking man with perhaps too much tragic baggage for any man to endure. He’s back on duty after a personal trip to Berlin to visit his estranged daughter just in time to end up as lead on this particular case. His partner seems to wonder if he’s up to the task… but even though there are signs of stress peeking around his rough edges, he’s determined to pull things together and see this one through to the end.
First off… he’s got to break the news to Mayka’s grieving husband that his wife body has gone missing. Ohhh… and find out just what he might have been up to earlier in the evening…. after all grieving spouses do make the best suspects for murder and that’s just what Mayka’s death is beginning to smell like to our veteran cop. You’d expect this would be where the film might start messing with the audience asking us over and over the simple question…. did he do it or didn’t he? Nope…. instead the story goes right ahead and throws the first surprise our way. Álex Ulloa, Mayka’s husband, (played by Hugo Silva) most definitely did it. Yep. Poisoned his much older, much more dominant, wife just so he could escape her overly smothering control and be with his younger, sexier, far less controlling mistress Carla (played by Aura Garrido) and live happily ever after having inherited his deceased wife’s vast corporate holdings. In fact, when Inspector Peña calls him up to come down to the morgue, the two of them are having a quick lil’ romantic moment of mutual congratulation over Álex’s apparently “perfect crime”. Unfortunately for them, by the time this night is over, he’s gonna need to redefine “perfect”….
Once he arrives… subtle questioning starts to lead to more serious interrogation, especially once the mysterious intervention of an unknown party starts revealing clues to what really happened to Mayka both before and after her death, clues that seem ever intent on revealing Álex’s involvement to everybody. This is where the film starts messing with your head… in a good way. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling things, but it’s fair to say that pretty soon you’ll be as confused and paranoid as Álex himself. Who is behind it all? Is Mayka even really dead? Or has she really returned from the Beyond to punish him for murdering her, as impossible as that sounds to a rational man. The possibilities go round and round… with only one real certainty: Somebody wants Álex to pay and pay dearly for his sins.
Now, with the mixture of psychological suspense, and the possibility of ghostly revenge, the plot gets a bit convoluted as the bulk of the story unfolds in that single night, so potential viewers better pay attention. For the most part we follow Álex as he squirms and tries his damnedest to escape the ever tightening noose of suspicion, but we also get flashbacks to explain Inspector Peña’s back story too and just how his promising career just sort of fell apart along with most of his life thanks to a tragic accident that had him at this very same morgue some 10 years before standing over his own wife’s corpse. One man a murderer, one man with his life destroyed… the similarities between the two situations keep resonating back and forth as those same two men play their game of truth and lies in a war of wills here in the present. And those two stories… more connected than you’d ever guess.
Eventually the stakes get higher… once Inspector Peña is convinced Álex murdered his wife, he turns up the pressure as our unseen third party stops with simply revealing Álex’s plot and starts threatening Carla to make our murderer squirm and suffer. Not to worry though… that’s pretty near the end of the story where all is finally revealed, in flashbacks to earlier scenes showing fine details you probably missed. Your favorite Catgirl certainly did… and that’s a hard thing to do, given how many crazy plots I’ve seen in movies like this over the years.
All in all… that’s perhaps the greatest praise I can give this film. It managed to actually surprise me with it’s ending. It’s a revenge driven, somewhat convoluted ending, but it actually does work and I’m thinking it’ll work for most suspense fans. The setting is great… with most of our story taking place within the single location of the city morgue… all shadows and death and creepy empty rooms. The acting is great too, of particular note, the duel of wills between our leads José Coronado and Hugo Silva is excellent with great supporting efforts from Belén Rueda and Aura Garrido rounding out an overall stellar cast. This one is just plain good. Definitely 4 “Meows” out of 5 across the board, I kid you not.
The Region 2 DVD is good too, presented in widescreen letterboxed format with the original Spanish language audio and separate selectable English subtitles unlike some other recent UK releases of foreign fare that have been done on DVD with burned in ones. Separate is always better… and so darn easy with the standard DVD format that having such subtitles is almost blasphemous. You can easily grab yourself a copy for right around 16-20$ US at most places. This wee lady suggests that you do… you wont be sorry. 🙂
Trailer? As always, never fear… Gentle Visitors your Favorite Catgirl’s got ya covered. 😉