This year the Spanish psychological thriller “The Body (El Cuerpo)” had its U.S. premiere in front of a full theater at the Metro 4 Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara as part of SBIFF.

The film, which is Oriol Pauolo’s directorial debut, opens when a night watchman is accidentally run over while fleeing from the morgue where he works. The police become involved and begin an investigation under the command of detective Jaime Pena (Jose Coronado). Soon, they realize the cadaver of recently deceased Mayka Villaverde (Belen Rueda), a powerful and wealthy businesswoman, has gone missing.

Pena, who lost his wife 10 years previously in a hit-and-run car accident and has underlying issues of his own, suspects Mayka’s widower, Alex Ulloa (Hugo Silva), who has been having an affair with his medical school student, Carla Miller (Aura Garrido). However, Mayka is revealed through flashbacks as being a connoisseur of pranks and manipulation, pulling sick and mean jokes on Alex throughout their marriage, which lends to the question: who now is playing the joke on whom?

The film takes place within a single night and gives the feeling that every event, even the flashbacks, is happening in real time, which serves well for the involved viewer. From the start the film spirals headfirst into an exhilarating mixture of intrigue and humor, and remains true to modern noir, combing the detective thriller with suspenseful horror. However, it does so to a fault. The plot comes off formulaic to its genre and leaves loose ends when the answers to the mystery begin to come together. Nevertheless, its wickedly shocking twists and turns keep the film’s momentum going. With its dark and seductive mood, “The Body” remains enjoyable throughout, especially when the audience realizes that nothing is at all what it seems.

A version of this article appeared on page 7 of February 7th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.