by Jeff Niesel
As the contributor behind a regular feature on our film blog called "Loud and Bobnoxious Cult Movies," Bob Ignizio will regularly contribute reviews of b-movies and horror flicks that might not have gotten the attention they deserved when they were initially released. Whether the films just had a short run in theaters or went straight to video, Ignizio is here to provide commentary. What follows is his review of Timecrimes, the debut from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo.
Timecrimes, the debut film from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, is one of the more entertaining films about time travel I’ve seen. Hector (Karra Elejalde) is the everyman protagonist who just wants to relax in the backyard of his new house and scope out the countryside with his binoculars. As Hector’s wife Clara (Candela Fernández) prepares to go out and pick up a few things for dinner, Hector spies an attractive young girl (Bárbara Goenaga) undressing in the woods. Distracted by his wife as she leaves, when Hector looks through the binoculars again the girl appears to be unconscious on the ground. Hector goes to investigate, only to be stabbed and chased by a strange man whose head is wrapped in pink bandages. Hector finds sanctuary in a nearby research facility where he is hidden in a tank by the lone scientist on duty, El Joven (director Nacho Vigalondo). To Hector’s surprise, the tank turns out to be a time machine that sends him back a few hours into the past.
After convincing El Joven that the scientist’s future self has sent him back in time, the two go outside where Hector looks through his binoculars and sees… himself, relaxing in the backyard. None too pleased to see this other Hector living in his house with his wife, Hector wants to go down and confront the doppelganger. El Joven explains that as long as Hector sits tight and lets events unfold as they had, he can safely return home once this other Hector shows up at the research facility. Fortunately for the sake of the film, Hector isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. He decides to take matters into his own less than capable hands, leading to a series of events both comical and catastrophic.
This is one of the few time travel movies where everything actually makes sense in the end. The story is compelling and flavored with a dry comic sensibility that never crosses the line into farce. Writer/director Vigalondo handles the material with skill, insuring that there are no paradoxes or plot holes left unresolved. The chronology does get complex, but it’s not so complex that you can’t follow it. And Elejalde is the perfect lead, playing his role in such a way that we like the character despite his poor judgment. There are no big special effects set pieces or outrageous action scenes, and the film is the better for it. The ending is a bit abrupt and morally ambiguous, but feels right for the story being told.
Timecrimes has been doing extremely well in the festival circuit, racking up several awards and nominations. Vigalondo was also nominated for “best new director” in Spain’s Goya Awards, their equivalent to the Oscars. So I guess it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that an American remake is in development. But do yourself a favor and rent the original out now on DVD from Magnet films. Even if you’re a subtitle hater, that’s no excuse since the disc includes an acceptable English dub track as well as the original Spanish.