The Echo (Hollywood remake and version of the Philippine film 'Sigaw') was screened at the 2008 FANTASIA FESTIVAL in Montreal, Canada last week July 17, 2008. The Echo is directed by Yam Laranas who also directed the original. The Echo starred Jesse Bradford (Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers) and Ms. Iza Calzado reprising her role as the battered wife.
Here are some snapshots at the screening of THE ECHO at the 2008 Fantasia Festival, Montreal Canada (photos courtesy of Yam Laranas from his blog)
Movie Reviews of THE ECHO
Echo, The (2008)
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
Echo, The (2008)
by Jay Seaver
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.
http://efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17667&reviewer=371 Sphere: Related Content