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1 review, 3 user ratings

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Echo, The (2008)
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by Jay Seaver

"A perfect name for a horror remake - that actually sells it short."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: Apparently the quest to find Asian horror to remake has now expanded its eye to the Philippines, where Yam Laranas's "Sigaw" was a hit and did fairly well on the festival circuit. The good news about this one is that Laranas transplanted it to New York himself, and appears to have done a pretty good job of making this second version worth the effort.

Meet Bobby (Jesse Bradford); he's just been paroled from prison after serving three years for involuntary manslaughter, and he's not looking for any trouble. When his parole officer asks where he's planning to stay, he says his mother's apartment, though his mother died while he was in prison. It's still full of her things, still bearing all the signs of the mental breakdown that preceded her death. Bobby is able to find a job, working for Hector (Carlos Leon) as a mechanic, though he's on a short leash there. He's isolated most of the time, though - none of his old friends talk to him other than his ex Alyssa (Amelia Warner), and she's as wary as you might expect. And his neighbors aren't helping him get a good night's sleep - Walter (Kevin Durand) makes life hell for his wife (Iza Calzado) and daughter (Jamie Bloch), but what can Bobby do, since he's an ex-con and Walter's a cop?

Laranas plays up how the culture of the big city is all about being careful: Friends tell Alyssa to stay away from Bobby, Hector certainly doesn't trust him to begin with, and while the manager of the apartment building tells Bobby that he and one other person (Pruitt Taylor Vince) are the only ones complaining about some of the sounds on their floor, Bobby is standoffish when the other man wants to talk. It may be the natural response to seal oneself up in a bubble with so much humanity on all sides, but it's not healthy, and it's no surprise when Bobby starts to crack.

Of course, having ghosts appear will speed that process up. The Echo plays with similar themes as the Grudge movies, although Laranas made Sigaw without knowing what Takashi Shimizu was doing in Japan at the time. The scare scenes are nicely done, with ghosts following Bobby away from the haunted space so that they can show up at any moment, but not being over-the-top in how they manifest. The reveal of just how much is supernatural is cleverly done, and Laranas is also very cognizant that ghosts are far from the only frightening thing in the movie: His portrayal of domestic violence is just as disquieting.

It's all anchored by a surprisingly good performance by Jesse Bradford. It's probably not fair to say "surprisingly" because I haven't seen him in very much, nor have I particularly wanted to, based on what he's done. He gets the job done as Bobby, though, capturing how worn down he is despite his youth, trying to keep his head down even though that's not really in his nature, and literally haunted. When we learn the exact circumstances that landed him in prison, even though he's not on-screen, we believe it because, yes, that's the guy we've been seeing. It certainly makes him worth a look in the future. The rest of the cast is good, too, decent actors well-suited to their roles, but Bradford is the one that grabs the audience whenever he's on-screen.

And that's probably one more notable performance than most horror remakes have, and for that alone, "The Echo" at least justifies its existence. It may do a bit better than that; I haven't seen "Sigaw", and based on its description, it looks like "The Echo" may actually be a somewhat richer work.

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originally posted: 07/19/08 03:48:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2008 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/12/11 jiropan the sound was chilling.........nice film.... 5 stars
12/10/09 Corky Not bad but for a relatively short film it dragged a bit... 3 stars
10/24/09 Jonathan I liked The Echo a lot. It's not your usual in-your-face kind of horror flick. 4 stars
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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 10-Nov-2009



Directed by
  Yam Laranas

Written by
  Eric Bernt
  Shintaro Shimosawa

  Jesse Bradford
  Amelia Warner

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