Europe has proved in recent years that you don’t need a big budget to make a suitably scary thriller. Horror flicks such as “Them” and “The Orphanage” didn’t have expensive special effects, but they more than made up for it with clever plotting and a tense atmosphere borne of mystery.
United Artists already has plans to remake the film in English, a sure sign of a foreign film with wide appeal. You should, of course, see the Spanish-language original. It might suffer a bit in its first moments as the story is established because the film has an under-illuminated, low-budget look. You’ll soon get too wrapped up in it to care, with this horror/science-fiction hybrid’s fast-moving twists and turns and on-the-edge everyman hero.
Hector (Karra Elejalde) and Clara (Candela Fernandez) seem like they’re about to enjoy a nice vacation. Hector’s roving eye is his downfall, though. When he spies through his binoculars a girl undressing in the woods, he can’t help but go take a look. The decision sets into motion a chain of events that will change the lives of all three of them.
When he finds the girl (Barbara Goenaga), she’s either dead or unconscious. He soon finds the culprit, too: A masked man stabs him in the arm. Barely getting away with his life, he finds refuge at a nearby laboratory, where a helpful young man (played by the director) tells him to hide in a large chamber. That chamber turns out to be a time machine, and Hector is sent back one hour. We see the events of the film again, this time from the “other” Hector’s perspective. It makes all the difference in the world.
This plot summary might sound ludicrous, but somehow it works. It’s partly because the games writer-director Nacho Vigalondo plays are so much fun. If you like the trickster films of Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “The Prestige”), chances are you’ll like “Timecrimes.”
The other reason is that the film is tightly focused on Hector, and Alfred Hitchcock’s films, except rather more resigned. He doesn’t much stop to think about what’s happened to him; he simply does what he thinks needs to be done to fix it. It does need fixing: The original Hector is rather bothered that there’s another Hector out there. The audience, though, gets both fear and fun out of it.
TITLE: “Timecrimes” (“Los Cronocrimenes”)
RATING: R (Nudity and language)
CREDITS: Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
WEB SITE: loscronocrimenes.com
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS