Fantastic Fest Review: The Invisible Guest

Locked room mystery is a nail-biter

The trick to a good mystery: Nod to the audience with beloved tropes, but still find a way to keep everyone guessing. No big secret, but also no easy task – especially if it’s an audience of seasoned genre fans. Cue genre provocateur Oriol Paulo.

This year’s Fantastic Fest opened with the U.S. premiere of writer/director Paulo’s (director/co-writer of The Body and co-writer of Julia’s Eyes) latest mystery-thriller, The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo.) The film tells the story of Adrián Doria (Mario Casas), a man with everything who suddenly lands in a tough spot. His skyrocketing career, his beautiful wife, his wonderful family – it all comes crashing down when he wakes up in a hotel room with the body of his dead mistress, Laura (Bárbara Lennie.) It’s just like a schoolyard riddle. He swears he didn’t do it, but no one saw anyone go in or out, the door is chained from the inside, and all the windows are sealed. It looks bad. Real bad. The story then unfolds as he works with members of his legal team to tease out the nights’ events and build a believable defense.

There’s much to recommend the film. For one, it looks gorgeous. It has a lovely monochromatic color scheme full of simple, tight shots contrasted against flyovers of Spanish mountains and forest roadways. The scenes move expertly between present day and Doria’s recounting, which gives the film a fluid feel. And, like any good thriller, it’s tense (TENSE!) right up to the end. Mystery fans will love it and all its mystery tropes, which of course made it a great choice for Fantastic Fest. But it could have easily opened another festival as there’s plenty for the less frequent genre flyers. In particular: The clever (and at times funny) tête-à-tête between Dario and his primary defense attorney. She needs more details to build a believable defense, but for some reason Dario seems less-than-forthcoming. That he’s a bit tightlipped might not surprise you. The rest of the film will.

The Invisible Guest screens again Tuesday, Sept. 27, 5:30pm.

Fantastic Fest 2016 runs Sept. 22-29 at the Alamo South Lamar. Tickets and info at, and follow our ongoing coverage at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Fantastic Fest 2016
DVDanger: <i>A Dark Song</i>
DVDanger: A Dark Song
Director Liam Gavin on magic and loss

Richard Whittaker, April 30, 2017

Nacho Vigalondo on <i>Colossal</i>
Nacho Vigalondo on Colossal
Combining the mediocre and cosmic with the creature feature director

Richard Whittaker, April 14, 2017

More by Ashley Moreno
Moontower 2019 Review: Amanda Seales
Moontower 2019 Review: Amanda Seales
Her wide-ranging set proved this comic can't be pigeonholed

April 30, 2019

Moontower 2019 Review: Hari Kondabolu
Moontower 2019 Review: Hari Kondabolu
This stand-up act balanced light humor and social issues

April 29, 2019


Fantastic Fest 2016, Fantastic Fest, The Invisible Guest

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle