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The Echo (2008)

Image Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/10/2009

All Ratings out
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/16/2009

In the past, I've written about how trends in horror movies come and go. One which is currently on the down-turn (I think) is the remaking of Asian horror films in America. When The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004) became hits, producers in Hollywood began scrambling to see what products from Japan, China, and other countries could be re-interpreted for U.S. audiences. Thus, we got mediocre entries like Shutter, The Eye, and Mirrors, none of which satisfied fans of the original films or newcomers. I've noticed less of these movies lately, which is probably a good thing. But, The Echo proves that if the cycle is ending, it's not going out with a whimper.

As The Echo opens, Bobby (Jesse Bradford) has just been released from prison and has returned home to New York City. He takes up residence in his late mother's apartment. As he was away when she died, Bobby doesn't know a lot of details about his mother's last days or her death. He attempts to settle in and is soon able to find a job. He approaches his old girlfriend, Alyssa (Amelia Warner), but she is cold towards him. Bobby's attempts at putting his life back together are stymied by the constant noises that he hears in his apartment and the fighting which comes from next door. He asks the building's manager for assistance, but gets nowhere. Distrustful of the police, Bobby is unsure what to do about the noises and fighting. Things get worse when he discovers odd artifacts in the apartment which suggest that his mother went through the same thing. As Bobby tries to get to the bottom of things, he begins to realize that what is happening may be supernatural.

The Echo is based on a Filipino film and Director Yam Laranas has helmed the remake of his original movie. I haven't seen the original, called Sigaw, so I can't comment on it, but I can tell you that this remake is an effective horror film.

We'll start by discussing one of the last things we usually talk about -- the film's sound. The point of the film is that while Bobby (and some others) can see the ghosts, they usually just hear them. To that end, the sound design in the movie is not only important, it's crucial. The noises from the ghosts not only alert Bobby to their presence, but to their general location as well. Laranas and his team have done a fantastic job of making the sound an integral part of the film, and while it can sometimes be difficult for an audience to feel as if we are seeing what the character is seeing, there's no doubt that we are all hearing the same things here. (See more in audio review below.) This is not to imply that the visuals here aren't impressive. From the outset, The Echo lets us know that odd things can appear anywhere in the frame. There are several static shots where you'll find yourself ignoring the action in the foreground and instead scanning the background for ghosts. The production design must be mentioned as well. The apartment building is a nice combination of old and decrepit and very brown. Some of the sets reminded me of something out of the Silent Hill video games. There is a great deal of solid filmmaking in The Echo, as the film is a feast for the eyes and ears.

The story and the pacing, however, leave something to be desired. The movie starts out very slow, and we are given very little information. Less patient viewers may give up on the film as it takes nearly 20 minutes for anything overtly supernatural to happen. Along with this, the movie takes it own time letting us know exactly what is happening. Whereas the classic Hollywood movie would find a way to tell us Bobby's story, The Echo lets things happen in a more organic way and it's over half-way through the film when Alyssa casually tells a friend why Bobby went to prison. It also takes a while for solid information about Bobby's mother to surface. A subplot concerning a neighbor who can also see the ghosts goes nowhere. Having said all of that, the second and most of the third acts are very good and deliver a nice amount of mystery and suspense. Once things get going, the movie isn't shy about letting the ghostly antics run free and there is a good jolt on a regular basis. However, the movie runs out of gas and the ending is somewhat of a letdown. It's probably the best way that the movie could have ended, but it doesn't match the intensity of the film's build-up.

The Echo is an interesting mixture of pros and cons. The story isn't very original, as it contains the familiar "who's a ghost and who isn't" trappings found in many Eastern films and at least one scene feels as if it were pulled directly from The Grudge. The story is a bit weak and the opening will bore many. That said, the movie works as a pure horror film. The movies mid-section contains one scene after another where ghostly noises and images besiege Bobby and there are certainly some creepy sights and sounds here. Fans of spooky horror should find something to like here.

The Echo should never visit the garbage chute on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a very fine grain at times and no defects from the source material. This is a dark film, filled with brown sets, but the image is never overly dark. When colors do appear, they look very good, and the blacks are very deep and true. The clarity of the image lends it a nice amount of detail and the shots down the hallway display very nice depth. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I hate to sound like a techy snob, but this is one of those movies which you really shouldn't watch unless you have a surround sound system. The stereo, surround and bass effects are so good on this Disc and they are nearly constant. As the ghosts make their presence known, the sound comes from all around us and really brings the viewer into the film. The video is certainly good, but for audio, I'm making this a demo disc, as it shows how important sound placement can be.

The only extra on The Echo Blu-ray Disc is the TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long