Sigaw (2004)

JULY 28, 2010


I usually don’t like to watch remakes before the originals, but in the case of Sigaw, I’m sort of glad I did (though it wasn’t intentional – I only realized The Echo was a remake after I had watched it), because the remake was better (before you boo – it was the same director, so he obviously wanted to improve on his original too, right?). Had I watched Sigaw first, I would have had its story spoiled already, and thus wouldn’t have been as engaged with the remake.

One of the main things the remake got right was the casting of the villain. You can’t do much better than the remake's Kevin Durand, who is one of the most menacing character actor villains in recent memory. But you can CERTAINLY do better than the guy in the role in Sigaw, who doesn’t look threatening OR like a cop in any way – I actually thought it was a different character at first, because the guy just had zero ability to unnerve me, something Durand can do without trying. If the only villain in your film isn’t physically imposing, then he has to do so with his dialogue and demeanor, but this dude just comes across more like a drunken accountant coming home after office karoake.

And while the film is more or less the same, the changes director Yam Laranas made for The Echo were pretty much all for the better. I liked that the main character had a shady past and was more or less forced to stay there due to his financial situation and probation, whereas the guy here is just trying to not live with his mom anymore. And while it didn’t matter in the long run, the estranged girlfriend subplot of the remake was more interesting than the bubbly, very much in love couple they are here.

Also, and I would have had an issue with this even if I hadn’t seen the remake, I’m baffled why the film explains everything we need to know with about 25-30 minutes to go, and then the rest of the film is more or less just a bunch of milling about. Our hero finds out that his neighbors are ghosts way too early, resulting in a very anticlimactic third act. He finds out, and then most of the rest of the movie doesn’t even take place in the apartment building! He goes over his girlfriend’s house, goes out to eat with his buddy, etc. And then he finally returns and things get wrapped up very quickly. It’s not the type of movie where the ghosts can leave their residence (at least, as far as I can tell), so to leave that location for such an extended period of time at ANY point in the movie is kind of silly, let alone at the end, when the shit should be hitting the fan.

But if you haven’t seen Echo, and for some reason can only access Sigaw, it’s still one of the better Asian haunting movies, and thus should be checked out. Again, the fact that the hero is a male for a change is somewhat refreshing, and he’s pretty likable as well. There are a couple of great scare moments (little girl running at the bed – gah!), and I like that there are both malevolent and benevolent ghosts, with our hero sort of trapped in the middle of their moebius strip fight. There’s some confusion with relation how much they appear in the real world (random neighbors seem to notice them on the elevator and in the hallway, yet during an attack the victim is being flung around by an invisible force), but otherwise it’s one of the more coherent of the genre as well – and the slight similarities to The Grudge (angry ghost vs. victim ghost) make this even more impressive, since those movies baffle the ever loving shit out of me.

It’s also a LOUD movie. Most of these films are usually pretty subtle with their soundtracks, but this has a lot of talking, big music cues, etc. And I would simply turn the sound way down, since I’m reading the subtitles anyway, but apparently in the Phillipines they switch to English at random, so I’d miss dialogue if I did that. Seriously, what’s up with that? I get like saying “Hello” or maybe a choice profanity in another language, but they go back and forth on the most random words. Like (Filipino for “I would like to eat a sandwich”), and then they’ll say “but as a matter of fact” in English, and then finish the rest of their thought in Filipino. Is there some sort of rhyme and/or reason for this?

Of course, a good DVD company would just put the English subs on for every line, in case folks were deaf or whatever, but this Regal Capital, Inc. (who?) is not a good DVD company. Everything about it is very user-unfriendly, from the 90 second FBI warning that cannot be skipped (they’re usually 30), to the confusing menus with insanely short loop times (it would pause to reloop just as I was trying to select a new scene), to the baffling layout of the special features screen. Plus, none of the trailers or the behind the scenes are subtitled, so they aren’t of much use to English speaking folk. Worse, it’s a non anamorphic transfer with subtitles in the black. So if you have an HDTV, you have three choices: 1. Watch the movie windowboxed. 2. Watch the movie stretched into a 2.35:1 image (it’s a 1.85:1 movie) so you can see the subtitles and still fill your screen sort of properly. 3. Zoom in to watch the movie at the correct aspect ratio, but not see any of the subtitles. Maybe if the disc was produced in 1999, this would be acceptable, but it was done in 2005, when HDTVs were quite common. All the more reason to stick with the remake*!

What say you?

*You might not have a choice - Sigaw seems to be out of print, no doubt due to the company being terrible. Enjoy this link to The Echo instead!

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