By Nickie Wang
Filipino audiences still prefer stories that can challenge their intelligence as reasonable viewers and a clamor for original, logical, intelligent, and entertaining movies is growing each day. This is one of the reasons why foreign movies receive record successes here in the country. As a matter of fact, You Changed My Life, a romantic-comedy film starring Sarah Geronimo and John Lloyd Cruz, is not the top-grossing film of all time in the Philippines, it’s Spiderman 3. It’s not even the number one film in the country this year; it’s a movie from Hollywood, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Now here comes The Echo, a Hollywood film directed by Filipino filmmaker Yam Laranas. It is a rehash of 2004 thriller Sigaw, which starred Richard Gutierrez, Angel Locsin and Iza Calzado. Will this film be fortunate to get the benefits Hollywood movies enjoy in the Philippine box office? The answer still lies on how the movie was [re]made.
With a $5-million budget, The Echo is still a low-budget film by Hollywood standards. While watching the premiere of the movie recently at the Cinema 4 of SM Megamall, one scribe said, “Maybe $3 million of the budget went to lead actor Jesse Bradford.”
Take it as joke or an unflattering remark but we had to dissent with the movie press.
Yes the film has a grainy texture because probably the cameras used to shoot the movie were not the usual high-definition shooting equipment. On the other hand, the horror flick is actually visually arousing supported by genius sound effect. The director utilized ordinary objects and turned them scary, and terrifying situations even more frightening. This pleasing remark goes to Laranas because we believe that there’s no better person to direct the Hollywood remake of Sigaw than Laranas himself.
The Echo is a better and more logical version of the 2004 horror flick. The story revolves around an ex-convict named Bobby (Bradford) who is trying to put back his life together. He has no other place to go aside from his deceased mother’s apartment so after his release from prison he goes there directly. Clueless about the mystery of his mother’s death, he stays in the apartment, gets a job, and tries to rekindle his lost relationship with girlfriend Alyssa (Amelia Warner). Unfortunately for Bobby, he starts hearing strange sounds at his apartment and soon discovers that his neighbor is an abusive husband to his wife and child. When Bobby tries to help, he is shocked to discover that his neighbors are not the usual family living just next door.
Actress Iza Calzado plays the battered wife, but if you are expecting to see more of her in the movie, you might get disappointed. Her performance is natural, but it is not something to rave about. If other international movie producers will notice her performance in this particular movie, then they saw something else from her that Laranas failed to highlight.
Meanwhile, Hollywood actor Jesse Bradford (Flags of Our Fathers, Bring It On) appears almost in every scene. Interestingly, the hunky actor is able to sustain it. His acting is realistic; it is believable that there should be no comparison between him and the actor who played the lead role in the original version because Jesse made a new character.
The Echo is not your usual Asian-inspired horror movie that scares you like hell right in the very beginning of the story. The buildup is too long, unnecessary, and rather unexciting. This is probably Laranas’ or Eric Bernt’s style but why make the story tedious if there were possible ways to make the development shorter. It’s not a practical strategy because if a moviegoer suddenly felt bored right in the very beginning and left the movie house, then the movie is a failure. Fortunately, here in the Philippines, that’s not the usual case because more often than not, a person will finish off the entire movie just to get his money’s worth.
Another thing, we didn’t hear any echo while watching the movie, maybe our auditory nerves were too active that all we heard were screams. On a positive note, while the first half of the film is a boring building of the mood, the latter part is a shocking revelation (that is if you didn’t see the original version). It’s a slow burner in other words.
(It could be the reason no major distributor picked it up. Poor Laranas, his Hollywood dream has been snuffed out too quickly.)