Echoes of Fear is a movie I hated after the first ten minutes, and I was all set to rip it to bits. Then by halfway through it had actually accomplished a feat few movies these days are capable of – it made me jump and squeal like a child, with a really beautifully executed scare. But then it couldn’t resist cramming in jump scare on top of jump scare, so I went back to hating it for the next twenty minutes or so. But THEN, by the end, everything had been explained, all questions were answered, the stakes were high and I found myself really enjoying it again so… how on earth to rate this film when I spent as much time hating it as enjoying it?
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Echoes of Fear opens with an elderly man (Norman Zeller – Malignant) taking a shower, who promptly dies in mysterious circumstances. His granddaughter Alisa (Trista Robinson – Purgatory Road, The Human Race) arrives to get the place ready to sell on, which involves her mostly living there on her own while she sorts her grandfather’s affairs, with occasional visits from boyfriend Brandon (Paul Chirico – Marry Me, Escape the Night) and best friend Steph (Hannah Race – Billy and the Bandit, So You Wanna Make a Movie) to help her out. She begins to suspect things are not entirely as they seem with the house and with what she knows about the man her grandfather seemed to be. The deeper she digs, the darker and more dangerous things become, eventually culminating in an all out battle for her life.
Directed by Brian Avenet-Bradley, Echoes of Fear is a difficult film to categorise. It could be described as a thriller with horror elements on one hand, while on the other you could also call it a horror film that’s got elements of a thriller. It’s a haunted house film, but the main focus of the story isn’t the haunting, it’s more of a detective story following a breadcrumb trail, occasionally interrupted by ghostly presences that really wish she’d pay more attention to the things they’re scrawling on walls and mirrors.
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So, as previously mentioned, this movie is all over the place. The opening is just painful. Trista Robinson has a sort of little-girl voice that’s initially really grating, and a habit of not only acting like every creak in the house is a serial killer sneaking in, but of then walking around in the house, in the dark, with her mouth hanging open and a gormless look on her face like she’s a teenager in a Halloween movie just waiting to get murdered. But as the film progresses, she starts making smart decisions rather than trite, tired ones; she shows a surprising amount of passion and energy in her performance, even if the script is determined to try and sabotage her. I started to empathise with her and hope that she’d make it to the end of the movie in one piece. That’s an impressive save, movie.
It also stars Marshal Hilton playing the neighbour, David. He also starred in one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen – Astro, playing the part of space-elf researching Alexander Biggs. But here? Here his performance is worthy of plaudits. He’s great to watch in this and I could even almost forgive him for being in Astro. Almost.
This is another film where to give too much away would be to do the film a disservice, because after all this the recommendation is going to be that this is a film worth seeing. It’s uneven as hell, the opening far too slow, but it redeems itself by the end, presenting a horror film that doesn’t just follow the same old tropes (other than the jump scares) and instead tries to do something new. As with horror game Maid of Sker, this is an ambitious but flawed product, but unlike the game, which didn’t do enough to truly stand out in the field of stealth horror, this film does.
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Give it a look. Strap in for the roller-coaster plot ride. By the end of it, you’ll be glad you did, because frankly any movie that manages to genuinely scare me enough to make me squeal “Fuck my Life!” at the top of my lungs is worth watching. Just watch out for the jump scares.