It seems like every year at Fantastic Fest, there’s a movie that is really solid, that doesn’t seem like it gets any attention. Maybe because it played up against a big Hollywood release. Maybe the second time the movie played it was up against a sleeper hit or a buzz screening. Point being, it happens every year that very good films seem to escape the attention of even the fringe genre fans.
Fantastic Fest 2015 had the slick and sharp South African crime action-er HARD TO GET. Fantastic Fest 2014 saw the North American Premiere of THE ABSENT ONE, a thrilling film (part of a trilogy) about a Scandinavian detective and his unlikely Muslim partner. Fantastic Fest 2012 played host to BLACK OUT, currently on Netflix, this was a hysterical Dutch crime comedy in the vein of the best of Guy Ritchie.
Fantastic Fest 2016’s over-looked crime film seems almost fated to be THE INVISIBLE GUEST, a topsy turvy locked-room mystery from Spain. At the time of this writing, THE INVISIBLE GUEST has one more screening before the end of the festival and a chance to pick up a buzz-screening, so I may be (and hope I am) wrong that this film will pass notice.
Spain’s Oriol Paulo, known to Fantastic Fest as a writer on JULIA’S EYES, takes the director’s chair in this ode to- maybe not Hitchcock- but to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. While it’s silly to try to spin an entire genre out of one TV show, the twists and turns of THE INVISIBLE GUEST would feel right at home with an intro by Hitch, taking low jabs at the sponsors.
Adrián Doria (Mario Casas) is a highly successful tech industry leader, hot off of making headway into the cash-cow Japanese market, finds himself coming-to after being hit on the head. On the floor is a blunt sculpture covered in blood. In the bathroom is a dead woman, surrounded by more Euros than most middle-class would see in a lifetime. A text message on his phone is almost a smoking gun, the door is locked from the inside. How will Doria get out of this mess and prove he’s innocent? For one, the best money hires the best lawyers, in turn the best lawyers hire the best consultants.
Enter the tough-as-nails Virginia Goodman, the best of the best. Once she’s taken a case, she’s never lost it, and she’s out of retirement for one more go ’round in the courtroom. When Virginia Goodman is in the house, you’ll never be the smartest person in the room. In order to guarantee victory, Virginia Goodman needs Adrián Dorian to be 100% honest, something that Dorian wasn’t quite preparing to do. What follows is a chess-like cat-and-mouse between brilliant strategists. Each step is like a finely choreographed dance move, and with each step a layer sheds, and we find that maybe everyone has something they’re not being honest about. At the end, the truth of who killed the girl and how, will be revealed.
One of the great strengths of many fun mysteries is that they will give you all the pieces to put the solution together on your own. THE INVISIBLE GUEST does this as well, and does so with deft foreshadowing, clever writing, and fantastic performances from the actors involved. Some people may arrive at the end, and almost dismissively scoff as exiting the theater saying “oh, I saw THAT coming.” And it’s true. The astute observer will likely be able to anticipate the conclusion of the film, which is fine. If the filmmaker didn’t want you to know what was going to happen, he wouldn’t have laid out the bread crumbs leading right to the front door. However, half the fun of tracking down the solution is the journey in which you take to get there. It’s not that you knew what was going to happen at the end that matters, it’s the intricate dance between a talented cast and a talented writer/director plying their trade for you to watch.
If a film was just about what happens in the last ten minutes, Ti West would be a much better appreciated filmmaker.
THE INVISIBLE GUEST is gripping, tense, clever, and a Hell of a lot of fun. I give this one my enthusiastic recommendation, and after this film and JULIA’S EYES, I consider myself a newly minted Oriol Paulo fan.