Whether or not you liked 1408, you’d have to agree that John Cusack carried that film like a sack of potatoes. If someone different had been cast in the central role—like say, for instance, Jesse Bradford from Bring It On—the Stephen King adaptation would have crumbled under the weight of its own preposterousness. In The Echo, an American remake of a moderately popular Filipino horror film, a poorly-cast Bradford plays an ex-con who moves into his dead mother’s decrepit apartment once he’s finally released on parole. Lacking the intensity necessary to carry the role of a hardened parolee, the star of Swimfan reduces the part of a hardened criminal to a pathetic display of sneering bewilderment.
Right from the beginning, there’s little doubt that the apartment is haunted. First there are noises: the sound of rapid footsteps on the floor boards, a child’s high-pitched laughter, and a deep scraping sound conspire to drive Bradford insane. Discovering a stash of prescription pills in his mother’s medicine cabinet, Bradford begins to wonder if paranormal forces have driven is mother crazy, too. The worst part is, Bradford has been seeing stuff. A beat-and-bruised semi-Asian woman , a xylophone-playing little girl, both lingering in the building hallway, nagging him for attention. But he seems to be the only one who can see them. Is he going crazy just like his mother?
The Echo is a 42-minute episode of Fear Itself stretched into a 90-minute feature until it’s as thin as waxed paper. I haven’t seen the Filipino original (Sigaw), and perhaps director Yam Laramas’ movie is more potent in its first incarnation, but this version of The Echo is riddled with faults. Stumbling out of the gate like an undead quarterhorse, the movie doesn’t shift its horror gears until the last 20 minutes, and by then the transmission is dragging on the pavement. The plot oozes predictability at every turn. The lightweight action warrants a PG-13 rating, at best. The role of Bradford’s girlfriend is tossed to Amelia Warner (The Seeker: The Dark is Rising) as an afterthought…sometimes you forget she’s even in the movie. To top it all off, Laramas stages scare scenes about as well as Tara Reid plays a scientist. Cheap, paper-mache horror.