Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Jesse Bradford, Amelia Warner, Kevin Durand
Directed by Yam Laranas
It’s always strange when I hear of a filmmaker being given the chance to remake his or her film with more money. I’m sure there are some out there who would jump at the chance to improve what they thought was wrong with their feature the first time, but why make the same film over again?
Yam Laranas understood that for an American remake of his Filipino shocker Sigaw to work, there would need to be some changes. Having never seen the original, I’m not sure how much is changed, but I can say that The Echo never suffers from what the worst of those other Asian remakes do: that feeling that you’re watching an Asian film with an English-speaking cast. The Echo is very much its own movie with its own style and pacing, and for that reason alone I’m glad Laranas was able to have a second chance.
Our story follows Bobby (Bradford), a man who’s just been released from prison after serving an untold amount of years for involuntary manslaughter. He moves into his mother’s apartment in New York, his mother having passed away while he was inside, and starts trying to rebuild his life. Unfortunately this new life is constantly interrupted the family next door, a cop (Durand) who likes to abuse his wife and young daughter. The husband is a very violent man, given to bouts of rage at the drop of a hat, and he doesn’t like to be interfered with.
When they’re not fighting, Bobby’s hearing strange noises at all hours of the night. Scraping sounds, whispering, the padding of feet on a bare floor; it’s all very disconcerting for him since he’s trying so hard to be “normal” but nothing around him is allowing it to happen. Is it the solitude that’s getting to him? Perhaps he was inside too long and can’t deal with the real world anymore? The more Bobby learns about his mother’s last days, the more he realizes he’s seeing exactly what she saw, which drove her to stay locked in her apartment for weeks. It’s up to him to get to the bottom of what’s going on with the sounds he’s hearing and how the people next door are connected to them, but as he learns the truth, he finds himself even more divorced for anything resembling a normal reality.
First and foremost, The Echo is a beautiful film. You can tell Yam, a cinematographer himself though he didn’t shoot this, put a lot of thought into every shot, every interior, every creeping, crawling camera movement; it all comes together wonderfully to add a thick tension to the proceedings, which in a film that is as deliberately paced as The Echo is incredibly important to keep the audience.
Which brings me to my first issue with The Echo: the pacing. To be frank, sometimes it is excruciatingly slow. As I stated, Laranas had a plan, and overall the pace works very well, but there are just some scenes that, while not necessarily in need of a trim, could have at least been sped up.
This is a Vertigo-produced remake, so all the standard Asian ghost movie remake staples are firmly in place: the musically timed scares, creepy little girl, ominous hallways, jump-cut movement of ghosts. It’s all stuff you’ve seen before, and while it didn’t necessarily detract from my enjoyment of The Echo, it did serve to cheapen it by a degree. I got the feeling that with a little more creative freedom, Laranas would have twisted some of the concepts to make them work better.
The Echo is beautifully shot with amazing production design, dripping with atmosphere and tension like I’ve not seen in the Asian remakes since the trend first started. While the story and its resolution do have some issues, The Echo is deeper than just the plot, thanks to the way it was designed and executed. The deliberate pacing will likely turn off the ADD viewers among us and the standard ghost elements may turn off the more snobbish among us, but as an entire package The Echo is a very solid movie and hopefully only the beginning of what Mr. Laranas has to show us.
3 1/2 out of 5