Sinister Amusement To Be Had in Shoestring Sci-Fi Timecrimes

Less a mindfuck on the level of 2004's ingenious Primer than a sort of mental canoodle, this modestly diverting slice of shoestring Spanish sci-fi from writer/director/co-star Nacho Vigalondo proves yet again that time travel is an ambitious low-budget filmmaker's jumbo Erector Set. Lured by a woman who mysteriously removes her top in his backyard woods, homeowner Hector (Karra Elejalde) gets attacked by a bandaged, scissors-wielding maniac and runs for his life. Like a paunchy, middle-aged Alice falling down a temporal rabbit hole, he seeks shelter at a nearby estate and takes a tip from its nerdy inhabitant (Vigalondo) to hide inside an ominous fluid-filled chamber—the first of several instances where you'll wonder how many brain cells time travel destroys, either by practice or contact. Where Primer reeled in viewers with its close observations, it's the small details of behavior here that seem unconvincing: If someone stashes scissors in a purse, the gleaming points will protrude instead of the handle. (Time travel, we learn, is as confining as being shackled to genre conventions.) But even though Vigalondo's obvious direction lingers over every carefully arranged tile in the toppling-domino plot—hey, you think that cryptic squiggle on the calendar actually means something?—there's still some sinister amusement in watching them stack and fall.

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