By Mariko McDonald | July 21, 2008

2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE! Yeah, Hollywood loves their remakes. They’ll jump onto any kind of trend or fad, churning out facsimiles and copies until every last dollar has been wrung out. And while most film fans have already grown tired of the Asian horror genre, the remakes are still playing catch-up. The latest of which is the Filipino shocker, “Sigaw,” now called, “The Echo.”

Bobby (Jesse Bradford) has just been released from jail after doing time for a violent crime, the details of which are not immediately disclosed. While he was inside, his mother passed away and being that he has nowhere else to go, and to help himself figure out what happened to her, he decides to move into her apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Immediately things don’t seem right. There are strange noises that can’t be explained and soon Bobby is seeing things as well as hearing them. Attempts to reach out to old pals and his neighbors are for naught, no one wants to associate with an ex-con. Even his ex-girl, Alyssa (Amelia Warner) wants nothing to do with him. Will Bobby be able to get to the bottom of what happened to his mom before his own life is put in danger?

Well, not to spoil anything, but yeah. It all comes together with a nice tight bow, but we kind of saw that coming from miles away. But despite this predictability, “The Echo” isn’t an altogether painful experience. In fact it has moments that are quite enjoyable and while light on terror there is heaps of atmosphere and enough creepy moments to satisfy most horror fans. The sound design is particularly notable and the effectiveness of the film relies heavily on this. And despite having been shot largely in Toronto, the New York setting is credible and convincing.

The acting is where things get a little more hit and miss. Bradford is surprisingly good, and despite his impressive physical appearance imbues his character with a vulnerability that is touching and believable. Also surprising is Carlos Leon (a.k.a. Madonna’s first baby daddy) who manages to steal almost every scene he is in as Bobby’s sympathetic boss, Hector. Not fairing as well is Warner, who while not awful, still doesn’t manage to distinguish herself in an admittedly thankless role. And rounding out the supporting cast is a completely wasted Pruit Taylor Vince who was obviously cast just to up the “creepy” factor.

The biggest strike the film has against it is that it is so late in the J-horror (or P-horror, in this case) remake cycle. While the original was written without knowledge of “Ju-On (The Grudge),” the plot is very similar and despite some genuinely creepy moments, it fails to reach the same level of terrifying. The domestic abuse plot is used well and the violence, while not especially graphic to seasoned horror fans is brutal enough to leave an impression.

For an American horror film, “The Echo” is above average, but as an Asian horror remake it fails to stand-out.

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