Drowning Echo (also called Nereus), directed by Georges Padey, offers a promising beginning with its opening scene announcing something akin to a sexy slasher movie that soon dissipates into something closer to a murder mystery with mystical elements borrowed from the Greek mythology.
The film opens with a stereotypical youthfully attractive woman getting violently dragged in a swimming pool while trying to get out and not be “possessed” by an evil force at night. Drowning Echo takes place in an apartment complex in Florida where Sara (Itziar Martinez), a New Yorker still recovering from the loss of her family, is spending a few days. She is invited to take her mind off sad things and to relax under the sun by her concerned childhood best friend, Will (Sean Ormond). Will’s wife, Lindsay (Natalie Blackman), has just left for a business trip overseas after receiving a mysterious book.
At a small neighborhood gathering around the residence pool, Sara meets Zac (Dennis Mencia), a despicable playboy model, Kate (Josephine Phoenix), a warmhearted nurse, and Alex (Raul Walder), a taciturn anxious “emo-looking” young man covered with “foretelling” tattoos and chewing a stick like a “bad boy”. (One might be right to ask what’s the deal with characters/guys still chewing sticks in movies in 2019!)
At some point, Alex, who is obviously a bit of an outcast, takes Sara aside to warn her that she is in danger, she should leave the party and go back to New York. She is puzzled but ignores his advice. After spending the evening partying in the pool, she goes back to the apartment and gets ready to sleep. Suddenly she feels ill, her body convulses, and she sees herself back in the deep end of the pool, suffocating, unable to come up as if controlled by a malicious force. This vision of drowning in the water will haunt her as she will relive this terrifying moment, or variants of it, many times that night.
“…a stereotypical youthfully attractive woman getting violently dragged in a swimming pool while trying to get out and not be “possessed” by an evil force at night.”
The day after, shocked and in a terrible state, Sara asks for help convinced that she is now in danger. She goes to see a medium who confirms her biggest fear: there is a supernatural entity in the water, and if she doesn’t act soon many will die. On top of that, Alex, who seems to be the only one aware of this “problem”, witnessed the horrifying disappearance of a woman from the pool not long ago (the one from the opening scene) but he did not mention it to anyone or the police as no one would ever believe him. Everybody, including Lyndsay in Greece, will start digging for clues and searching for a solution to prevent their inevitable deaths from this mysterious and wicked water-bound creature.
Drowning Echo has a couple of twists leading to its final reveal incorporating in a desultory manner (too) many ideas, from psychic power, group hysteria, to ancient tales and even monks! By trying to achieve too much, the movie ends up being uneven in all aspects. Shots of varying qualities from angles to angles are quite apparent, with the outcome being: ¼ of the film looking fairly good, ¼ looking very poorly shot, and the ½ left looking pretty standard. So that makes for an average looking film in an unremarkable kind of way.
Although the story is at least original and the filmmakers evidently strove for something more than a cheap-thrill horror movie, the plot is regrettably overstuffed with awkward or unclear setups that could confuse viewers — mainly in the first act.
Drowning Echo is also very lengthy and could have benefited from more than a couple of cuts. Scenes, where characters coming out of nowhere are stiffly introduced only to die in the next scene, seem unnecessary. Also, consider people running around in a monastery (obviously in the dead of night!) are getting scared again and again for 10 minutes too long, or people browsing the web indefinitely with the usual accompanying voice-over. To say the least, all these redundancies are truly unnecessary and only stretched the film past the point of being acceptable.
“…is at least original and the filmmakers evidently strove for something more than a cheap-thrill horror movie…”
They also overdid “The Blair Witch Project / found footage” inspired scenes, and although it was interesting in the beginning, it quickly became annoying to watch and detrimental to the rest of the story.
Drowning Echo showcases numerous actors from a Latino / Spanish-speaking background which is novel or a rare occurrence among films of these genres. The performances are not bad despite the fact that the editing — or direction — made everybody looked like they were trying a bit too hard to appear scared (for too long). This acting style and many other aspects of the film, particularly the “over-dramatic” score, gave the feature, for better or worse, a CW dark fantasy show vibe a la “The Vampire Diaries & co.”
To be fair, Drowning Echo is probably conventional for a supposedly low-budget horror movie. It also features some decent VFX bringing to mind The Secret World of Alex Mack water effects, but sadly this might not be enough to prevent one from drowning in boredom or losing interest. It was, in the end, frustratingly slow and ineffective in its scares.
As mentioned before, viewers should know not to expect a slasher and if they are looking for a mythical movie, they should look away as Drowning Echo truly watered-down this connection. Moral of this story: When a creepy dude tells you that you are in danger, at least ask him why!? And also, if there is a creature possibly lurking in the water, then do not get in the pool!
Drowning Echo (2019) Directed by Georges Padey. Written by Georges Padey and Itziar Martinez. Starring Itziar Martinez, Dennis Mencia, Raul Walder, Sean Ormond, Josephine Phoenix, Natalie Blackman.