By Spanish standards a fair stab at the thriller genre, helmer Xavier F. Villaverde’s third feature, “Thirteen Chimes,” is efficient, visually potent fare which starts out strongly, only to fade as the pseudo-psychology kicks in. First weekend B.O. in mid-January was discreet, with “Chimes” looking unlikely to resound far beyond the Hispanic circuit.
Set in Santiago, northern Spain, pic opens with the shooting of well-known sculptor Mateo (Luis Tosar, from “Mondays in the Sun”) as his terrified son, Jacobo (David Alvarez), looks on. Twenty years later, Jacobo (Juan Diego Botto) returns from Argentina at the behest of childhood friend Maria (Marta Etura), who’s worried about the health of Jacobo’s mother, Carmen (Elvira Minguez). Jacobo, however, is on medication for schizophrenia, and pic’s coherence starts to fragment as Jacobo wrestles with his father’s ghost. Of the crop of young Spanish thesps, nobody does nutters like Botto, here a typical combination of laid-back and edgy. New face Etura brings a freshness which is a necessary counterpoint to all the gloom. Visuals by Javier Salmones are generally first-rate, particularly when teasing out the Gothic atmosphere of Santiago’s 12th-century cathedral.