US DVD: 9 Mar 2010
Once upon a time there were creepy Asian horror movies, like Ringu and Ju-on from Japan, The Eye from Hong Kong, and A Tale of Two Sisters from Korea, which are spooky and atmospheric, and genuinely frightening. Then there are the Hollywood remakes of these movies, like The Ring and The Grudge, which still hold up pretty well. After this comes a new wave of sequels and knockoffs of these successful horror films, which vary wildly in quality from still pretty decent to god-awful dreck.
Somewhere latter in this progression, you eventually get down to a movie like Haunted Echoes, a knock off of the knock offs, which, as far as I can tell, has no redeeming characteristics.
Sean Young (Blade Runner), who looks shockingly like Tim Curry from Rocky Horror in this movie, and David Starzyk, play Laura and Guy Dykstra. Their idyllic, upper middle class life is shattered when their eight-year-old daughter is abducted and murdered. In order to cope with this tragedy, they buy and restore a spooky old Victorian house. At this point you know where this is going.
Lo and behold, they discover that the spirit of a little murdered girl haunts the house. The Dykstras have to dig into the sinister past of their new home in order to find out the truth about what really happened to their daughter.
The story is standard ghost story fare, with nothing to distinguish it from dozens of other movies of the same ilk. You can feel the filmmakers trying to create an eerie atmosphere. The ghost-child writes cryptic messages on the wall, Laura sees a mud covered girl-ghost in the bathtub, the phone rings in the middle of the night, and there is even a séance. None of it works. You’ve seen all of it before, it’s not done particularly well, here, and everything that is supposed to be creepy is laughable, instead.
Even the music is comical. It has long been established that the sounds from a chorus of children can be rendered creepy. Not in Haunted Echoes, it isn’t. Laura and Guy continually watch a video of their daughter’s choir recital, where they sing what you can tell is intended to be an ominous, unnerving song. Only the children they got to sing in this movie are not talented, and the end result is a jumbled, incoherent mess, that, while it does actually sound like a bunch of young kids singing, adds nothing to the mood of the film. There is even some pipe organ music, which instead of being dark and brooding, borders on jauntiness.
The actors don’t do anything to help themselves, either. Every line is delivered half a beat too fast to sound natural. It feels like the cast is trying to get through their dialogue as quickly as possible so they too can be done with this movie. Their deliveries never hit the appropriate note, being either too overstated or too underdone for the circumstances. When Laura and Guy argue, Young goes way over the top, while Starzyk has no inflection in his voice.
M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple), as the weird neighbor who knows all about the history of the house, appears to be either drunk or having a stroke the entire time he is on the screen. It’s actually sad to watch him. There are multiple times where you think the actors flub a line, but they kept it in the film, anyway. Oh, and be on the look out for the worst fake knife, ever.
Haunted Echoes is one of those movies that 45-minutes in, you wonder how the filmmakers are going to fill another 45-minutes.
E1 Entertainment isn’t even trying with the DVD. There is nothing, very literally nothing, on the disc besides the movie. You can watch the movie in English, with English subtitles, which might actually prove useful because the sound quality degrades and gets worse and worse as the movie progresses. By the time I finished the movie, the sound on my TV was up to what should have been an ear crushing volume, but the dialogue was still muddy and difficult to understand. Horrifying, indeed.
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