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October 21, 2011

The Echo

the echo poster.jpg

Yam Laranas - 2008
Image Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Filipino filmmaker Yam Laranas remade his own film which might have seemed like a good idea at the time. While the original version, which I wrote about two years ago, was a pretty good thriller, the English language remake unsurprisingly went straight to video for U.S. audiences. That The Echo came out at the time American audiences lost interest in English language versions of Asian horror films didn't help the film's commercial prospects.

Most of the film takes place in a huge, dark apartment building in the lower East Side of New York City, 20 Avenue E, a fictional address as "Alphabet City" only goes to the letter D. The walls are all dark brown. The manager describes the construction of the building as pre-war, and since there's an elevator, I assume that means the place hasn't been rehabbed since Franklin Roosevelt was president. What makes The Echo so unbelievable isn't that there's an apartment building haunted by ghosts, but that there's an apartment building in the lower East Side with an elevator, and vacant apartments. Yes, it's been years since I've lived in NYC, East 7th Street near 2nd Avenue to be more exact, but I know things haven't changed that much that a relatively inexpensive apartment would go empty, ghosts or no ghosts.

Ex-con, Bobby, is released from Riker's Island, going to his mother's apartment. The mother died under mysterious circumstances. Bobby hears noises from the apartment next door, followed by an argument between a man and a woman. The arguments continue with the same exchanges of dialogue. Bobby may or may not be seeing and hearing things, with spontaneous bleeding from his ears, and doors that slam shut by themselves. Strange things happen to Bobby's girlfriend, Alyssa, and the neighbor down the hall. The bothersome neighbors next door include a small girl who plays with her toy piano, her young mother, and a tall, bullet headed cop. There's also someone in the apartment across the courtyard sneaking peaks at Bobby's apartment.

the echo 2.jpg

The screenplay makes the mistake of moving too much of the scares and mystery outside of Bobby's apartment and the hallway, where the original film took place. Also in the first version, there is more time spent making the girlfriend believe that the haunted apartment dweller has a relationship with the wife next door. What hurts The Echo is that motivation is sacrificed to allow for some creepy, and even mildly scary scenes with characters who are only peripherally involved in Bobby's dilemma.

Laranas even has actress Iza Calzado reprise her role from the first film as the wife next door. As The Echo progressed, there were times when I would have wished that Laranas had, if not done a shot for shot remake, spent more time duplicating the first film's strongest visual moments.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 21, 2011 06:12 AM