I’ve been on a real losing streak with regard to my choice of movies lately. The Echo broke that streak nicely and provided me with an actually enjoyable viewing experience. Behold:
1. It looked like an honest to god movie, filmed with legitimate movie-filming equipment by people who had a production budget containing more than four digits. (Unlike The Pact and Absentia.)
2. The actors behaved like people receiving a paycheck to convince me that they are real human beings to whom strange and frightening things are happening. (The Pact and Absentia again.)
3. The movie made sense, and the action and pacing were tight, with no scenes that looked like they wandered in from a completely different movie. (The Yellow Wallpaper.)
4. I liked the characters. Yes, even the guy who just got out of jail for manslaughter. Not even once in this movie did I petition God to kill off one of the protagonists. (Wicked Little Things.)
5. The ending suited the movie and did not appear to be inserted in there at random. (The Pact, The Yellow Wallpaper.)
Okay, so all this sounds like it’s damning with faint praise. But I think even if I’d seen it after, say, Stir of Echoes, I’d still have enjoyed this movie.
East Village denizen Bobby (Jesse Bradford), newly released from prison on an involuntary manslaughter charge, comes home to the apartment where his mother died while he was in the joint. He tries to reconnect with his friends, who largely want nothing to do with him now, and his adorable ex-girlfriend Alyssa (Amelia Warner), who sort of wants nothing to do with him but is willing to be convinced. As he’s dealing with cleaning out his mother’s things and working through his grief, he starts hearing all sorts of unpleasant things – scratching, whispers, the guy next door beating his family.
Things just get weirder from there. The things he hears and sees get worse. He finds out some unpleasant things about the state of his mother’s mental health. The family next door gets more and more disturbing. Alyssa starts hearing things too. Of course, it turns out that what’s going on is GHOSTS, and you know how pissy ghosts get if you don’t figure out what they want and give it to them.
The Echo is cut from the same cloth as Red Sands and Forget Me Not – it’s a low-budget, unmarketed, unassuming movie that you don’t have high expectations of until you watch it and it turns out against all expectations to be really good. Bradford and the script between them did an amazing job of getting me invested in Bobby; the scenes where he’s wandering around sort of lost in his mother’s apartment, trying to figure out what to do with her things, are genuinely sad. The creepiness factor starts early, ramps up slowly but inexorably, and carries through right until the end. There’s just enough injection of social issues to give it bite but not enough to make it preachy, which is a balance almost no one ever manages to strike.
The tagline says it’s from the executive producers of The Ring and The Grudge. I don’t know what executive producers do so I don’t know how significant that really is, but the movie does carry that faint vibe of a good American remake of a good foreign movie, so you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s a remake or adaptation or something of a 2004 Filipino movie of the same name. I haven’t seen the original, but that’s fine with me – the remake was satisfying enough.
So what’s the verdict? Three stars. Not only is it worth a watch, I may add it to my DVD library.