Struggling with horrifying, sleep-paralysis induced visions, a young writer retreats with her boyfriend to an isolated desert house. As the visions intensify, she finds herself on the verge of losing her mind…or uncovering a life-threatening secret.
We’ve all experienced some sort of sleep paralysis before in our lives. Whether it be real or in a dream, the idea of not being able to move when you want to is pretty frightening. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a great quirk to give a character in a horror film. The question I have to ask is why bother giving a character interesting problems only to abandon it half way through for a far less interesting story. This is the major issue facing the film ECHOES. There’s several good ideas, an interesting plot, decent acting, but all we have are hollow characters we just don’t care about. There’s some solid frights, it was filmed beautifully at The Joshua Tree, and the pacing is acceptable. I guess you can’t have it all. But hey, if you were an AMERICAN GLADIATORS fan in the 80’s then seeing Billy Wirth appear in a minor role will elicit a pinch of excitement. Sure, he killed in Abel Ferrara’s BODY SNATCHERS, I will however always remember him kicking ass as a contestant on that show. Little else will excite you in this film, though first time feature director Nils Timm can beautifully tell a visual story.
Anna (Kate French) has a burgeoning career as a writer. With her blog and screenwriting, she’s well on her way to achieving her dreams. Sadly, her sleep paralysis is so severe it’s beginning to hinder her work. She’s constantly popping pills in order to keep it at bay but nothing is really working. Her agent boyfriend Paul (Steven Brand) wants to do what he can to help her and takes her away to his secluded glass house in the desert. He returns to the city for work while Anna stays, hoping to relax and get some work done herself. Instead, the paralysis intensifies and the visions she has become terrifying. Things begin happening she can’t explain and someone or something is trying to send her a message. After viewing footage caught on the surveillance camera, she witnesses herself murdering a man and she has no recollection of it. She desperately needs to figure out what is happening and what the horrible secret of this glass house actually is.
Even though the acting is above average, things fall apart when it comes to character and the third act. Kate French does a great job as this conflicted character, she breathes as much life into her as she can. When the majority of the film leaves the character of Anna on screen by herself, things never get too exciting and we have trouble connecting with her (or any other character for that matter). The finale is predictable and almost feels rushed. It just seems to come to a halt and leaves you very unsatisfied.
Behind the camera, Nils Timm can masterfully deliver a film that not only looks stunning but can build tension without taking too long to deliver. The script suffers for downplaying the most interesting angle, the sleep paralysis, the story almost ignores the fact our heroine kills innocents, and the plot twist in the middle of the film is far too predictable. I was thrown back by how Anna gets up in the morning to hike, looking for a cell signal, only to have the night sky take over. It takes her all day into night to find the signal, but only a moment to get back to the house?
While the performances are fantastic and the directing is solid, it’s the script that needed work to make ECHOES memorable. Timm may need to seek help elsewhere if he really wants to show the world what he can do. I would be interested in seeing how he would fare when working with another writer, a stronger writer. That could only be beneficial for him and his career, to learn from his mistakes, and to grow as a writer and filmmaker. **1/2 (out of 5)