NOVEMBER 2, 2010
Usually I can’t help but read every single credit at the top of a film, but the titles on Haunted Echoes were so goddamn ugly and amateurish I forced myself to tune them out, lest I go insane. Thus, I watched the entire film without realizing that it was directed by none other than Harry Davenport, who helmed the awesome Xtro. Sadly, based on this and Xtro 2, I’m starting to suspect that film was a fluke, and I am quite honestly shocked that an established director could produce something so sloppy. I figured it was the work of a film student.
For starters, it looks like a public access production at best, with consumer quality cameras being used to film clunkily blocked scenes, and editing that suggests the film was merely assembled on a timeline and output without any further finessing. How else to explain the number of shots that go on too long, bizarre and jarring cuts to black, and the fact that the movie is 97 minutes long despite being a mystery in which there are only two suspects, one who is in jail (and suspected innocent) and the other who is the murdered child’s creepy teacher (who we see murdering his mother at the 60 minute mark or so). This thing could have been a leisurely 75 minutes. And the less said about its mind-blowingly terrible “ghost” effects, the better, since it looks like someone got a copy of Adobe After Effects and simply dropped every filter available over the shot.
The casting is also woeful; Sean Young and David Starzyk are decent actors, but they have zero chemistry, which is a big problem when the film is more concerned with their failing marriage than the ghosts/murderer stuff. Even after a dozen scenes together, I was still unconvinced these two had ever even met, let alone been married for a decade. Also, Starzyk gets a cut on his face like 30 minutes into the movie, and the damn thing looks like its still bleeding in his final scenes. And he plays a doctor! Stitch that shit and check for rabies, dude. Kudos to Young for at least playing the part of a grieving mother with regards to her wardrobe though; rarely have I seen an actress allow herself to look so unflattering. But it makes sense in the context of the story, so A for effort and all.
The story also relies on way too big of a coincidence. The grieving parents move into a house at the beginning of the movie, and after a while we discover that the house used to be owned by a woman who turns out to be the mother of the guy they suspect killed their kid? Come on! Plus it keeps switching between murder mystery and ghost story, and as a result it seems like there are two movies occurring at once, with not enough time spent with either to make it compelling. There’s some stuff about a young girl who moved in with the woman and potential killer, and it just seems to come out of nowhere too late in the film – our investment revolves around whether or not he killed the little girl! Who cares about this other crap? And then once everything is resolved, we realize that half the movie was just a macguffin and the right guy was in jail all along. So what’s the point? The moral of the story seems to be “Just accept whatever the cops tell you in the first place.”
Luckily, the movie had JUST enough to keep my attention throughout its running time. For starters, their neighbor is played by none other than the great M. Emmet Walsh – and as Roger Ebert once said, no movie with Walsh can be altogether bad. His role is largely inconsequential, but it’s great to see him all the same. It’s also sprinkled with (largely unintentional) humor, such as when one of Walsh’s cats somehow gets in a microwave and gets cooked (Young brings the remains over in a shoebox). Also, at one point the characters go to a restaurant that has a “D” from the health inspector, which killed me. I also like the following exchange, between Young and a little girl from their dead daughter’s class:
Young: “Does Mr. Monk ever talk about anything inappropriate?”
Girl: “He talks about Michigan a lot.”
The monster! No child should be subjected to stories about Michigan. Speaking of the little girl, you gotta give the movie some credit – here we have two parents that are grieving over the loss of their child, and yet they basically kidnap this little girl to try to find out more about the teacher. They show up at her school at the end of the day, offer her a ride, and even offer her a present! I could see if she was the child of their suspect, but no, it’s just some other kid in the class. Weird.
And who the hell scored this movie? Everything sounds like it should be accompanying a stage production of Lord of the Rings or something.
The movie’s best moment actually comes during the end credits (which are just as ugly as the opening titles), with all the legal information. Instead of the standard language, it says “No animals were intentionally injured.” So in other words, at least one of those cats got hurt (or maybe when Starzyk says he ran over the dog, he was taking a cue from real life). In this case, maybe you guys should have just left the language out entirely – it’s not like anyone assumes that if it doesn’t have the disclaimer that all of the animals seen in the movie were tortured or killed. I could have been perfectly happy thinking Mittens and Fido shot their scenes and went on their merry way, but now I’m worried that they were abused. Nice going, Davenport.
What say you?