James Simpson’s World of Horror: Timecrimes (Spain, 2007)
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Karra Elejalde, Barbara Geonaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Candela Fernandez
aka: Los Cronocrimenes
Language: Spanish with English subtitles.
Run time: 1 hour 47 minutes.
The UKHS world tour of horror is back on the road and returns to that hotbed of brilliant 21st century world cinema, Spain…
Hector (Elejalde) and his wife (Fernandez) have just moved into a new home and are busy making it over. One day Hector returns from shopping and joins his wife in the back garden. It look likes the countryside that surrounds them and Hector likes to admire it with a pair of binoculars. While doing this he spots a young woman (Geonaga) removing her t-shirt and exposing her bare breasts, stood in some woods. His wife leaves and Hector decides to go into the woods and find out more about this woman. When he manages to locate her she is naked and unconscious and he is attacked by a man with his head wrapped with bandages.
Fleeing from the man Hector staggers into the fenced off grounds of a building that he hasn’t seen before. Fearing the bandaged man will attack again he pleads with someone in the building (played by Viglando) to help him. They tell him to get into a large pod, which he does so willingly. What Hector doesn’t know is that this is some form of a time machine and he is sent back in time to when he earlier returned from the shops. He now needs answers to what’s going on and how to ‘get back’ to his own time as history repeats itself…
The plot is elaborate and sophisticated with it’s use of time travel. As the story develops more and more complications stemming from Hector’s initial travel back in time take place. Director and writer Viglando challenges himself with a script that has several different things happening at once, although it doesn’t appear this way at first. As if to make things harder for himself Viglando also plays the scientist that controls the time machine, a good performance is put forward.
The more desperate Hector becomes in his efforts to ‘restore’ things to the way they were the more the story throws another issue his way, things on screen become increasingly complex. Viglando manages to fill the movie with multiple events that work and make sense and, while it may be a slight effort to keep up, all of these things come together at the end of Timecrimes. All the strands are tied nicely together, pardon the cliché, allowing the films impact to be more rewarding.
This isn’t to say Timecrimes is without it’s faults. One being the flimsy way in which certain events happen. As detailed above numerous aspects make sense, or at least entertain enough to fool the viewer into thinking they do, yet others fall short. The first travel back in time by Hector is never explained (no more will be said as this may be a spoiler in some way), the facility he finds that has a time machine in it is ‘just there’ and the science behind said time machine isn’t touched upon. Hector just so happens to live near a building that contains a time machine for reasons never explained.
Another issue to take note of is why he is sent back in time to the point in which he sees the girl topless. Why then of all times and not something more moribund such as Hector doing the dishes (not that he is seen doing this in Timecrimes, it’s just an example). After all, it is seeing the topless woman that causes him to find the time machine in the first place. But he just so happens to go back to then. It is assumed this is because, otherwise, the film would be incredibly short and devoid of much drama. Hector ‘caught in a loop’ is what the plot requires without further explanation.
Elejalde as Hector is a convincing lead and carries much of the screen time. He portrays the role as a happy and cheerful man yet as he experiences the consequences of time travel he slowly becomes a bitter and aggressive man. Initially he seems hesitant to manipulate people to do what he wants although by the end he is forceful and dangerous. Elejalde’s numerous performances are believable and heighten the drama when required.
For some years an English language remake has been rumoured. If any remake were to take place it is hoped the plotholes of the original will be filled in, allowing for some merit of a retooling (instead of another duff US-version of a loved foreign language movie).
Timecrimes is a thrilling and uncanny depiction of a man struggling to regain the life he has suddenly lost in a very unexpected way, which incorporates an engaging story (barring it’s weaknesses) and is finely made. The vision of Hector wearing the bandages is an enduring image of Spanish horror.
8 out of 10.
Readily available on DVD and VOD streaming services.