I could just tell you that Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimes) is an excellent Spanish film about time travel, full of horror and suspense and great performances, and that you should track it down if it’s playing in a theater near you. That’s all you should really need to know- this movie is absolutely worth your time, the kind of little gem that will stick with you and be talked about for days afterwards. It’s also the kind of film it pays to go into not knowing much about it, one that will grab you by surprise and make you wonder just where the hell the story is going. But for those who need a little more convincing… read on.

The film is about a man named Héctor (Karra Elejalde), who is in the process of moving into a new house with his wife. He’s a bit of a pushover- while he sits in the yard birdwatching with binoculars she’s putting a table together in the house. While he’s relaxing outside he notices a flash of color in the woods, and sees a woman undressing. He follows her into the woods and before he knows it gets himself mixed up in heaps of trouble.

Trying to help the woman who has apparently passed out on the ground, Héctor is stabbed (with a pair of scissors!) by a man with a bandaged face. He manages to escape the lunatic and seeks shelter in the closest building he can find. Grabbing a nearby radio, he is directed towards help by an employee of the place, which he finds out happens to be a science lab where they’ve created a time machine. To escape the bandaged killer Héctor jumps into the machine and ends up being sent back in time by mistake.

It’s not a huge amount of time, just a few hours. But it’s enough to freak him out when he tries to go back to his house and sees himself relaxing in the yard.

The rest of the film is all about the poor guy trying to figure out what to do, and how to set things straight. The film plays on the usual brain-twisting time travel points- is everything he does already done and predetermined, or does he cause everything to happen himself? And what are the implications if this is all his fault, and the titular crime was something he intended to do? It’s a great little mind-fuck, but it’s not all perfect.

Since he goes back into the past a couple of times you end up sitting through the same events over and over. It’s from a different point of view of course and it’s fascinating to see everything start to come together, but you’ll have figured out what’s going to happen well before the main character.

One big problem with the film is that anyone who’s seen Back to the Future (or any other time-travel movie, for that matter) will understand and immediately accept what he’s going through. Héctor just doesn’t seem to understand that there can be two of him living at once and that bit of stupidity on his part, while a character trait, is also annoying for those of us who can see what’s about to happen from a mile away.

But for such a small, low budget film, it manages to do so many things incredibly well. It’s full of tension, with one scene in particular (his chase to the science facility) leaving you incredibly anxious to see if he’ll escape and what’s going to happen to him. The horror of the movie is helped by the absolutely brilliant sound design, which uses music to really make you feel the frantic emotions of the main character.

It’s unique and different and the kind of small flick that doesn’t usually get a theatrical release, so I suggest you hunt this one down as soon as possible.

8.5 out of 10

TIMECRIMES opens today in limited release. If you live in NYC, LA or Austin you’re in luck, but people in other cities should pay attention to the official site, as it will be rolling out to more in the next few weeks.