A woman suffers haunting sleep paralysis in this better-than-it-should-be thriller

Almost every professional movie these days is written with a distinct audience in mind. Echoes is the latest horror movie aimed at adults. There are no horny teenagers messing around or unbeatable demons running loose in its narrative. Director Nils Timm’s film is crafted around a female protagonist suffering from sleep paralysis and waking nightmares. She copes with her problems like many in our society, medicating herself with prescription drugs. Echoes is more psychological thriller than horror film, which may set it up for disappointment with viewers expecting a more visceral horror movie.

Anna Parker (Kate French of One Tree Hill) is a young screenwriter in a relationship with her much older agent, Paul (Steven Brand). She suffers from terrible sleep paralysis and recurring lucid nightmares, heavily medicating herself for normal psychological functioning. Paul gives Anna the chance to get away from the city by inviting her to his ultra-modern glass house in Joshua Tree. The isolated home is practically on its own in the stark, foreboding landscape. The only neighbor for miles is a groundskeeper that lives nearby in a trailer, Jeremy. The ultimate sign of isolation for Anna is no cell or web connection on the property, cutting her off from everyone. Echoes plays on that very modern and new fear.

It is not that hard to guess what happens next in the desolate setting for Anna. Paul is suddenly called away for work, leaving Anna by herself to finish off her script. Alone in the surprisingly creepy glass house, Anna starts dreaming of a mysterious creature. Things get worse when Anna finds evidence that what she saw wasn’t all a nightmare, someone or something was there in the night. Anna begins to freak out, setting off a cascade of troubling experiences in the house. How is Paul involved and what happened in this house?

A glass house in the middle of a rocky desert sets a fantastically frightful atmosphere.

Echoes is more of a psychological thriller in the mold of Hitchcock than out-and-out horror, some minor nods to horror conventions notwithstanding. One can easily see how the script may have come together without a hint of ghosts thrown in the narrative, until Nils Timm was told it needed scarier elements to help sell Echoes. The token supernatural elements in Echoes are stylish and well done, though probably are not enough to quicken the pulse of jaded horror fans. The most effective parts of Echoes stem from its arid desert setting. A glass house in the middle of a rocky desert sets a fantastically frightful atmosphere. What looks cool at first begins to turn nightmarish for a person by themselves.

Echoes lies uneasily between disposable rental fodder and polished thriller. I wish the final act had been better. It turns what had been a fairly compelling ride on Anna’s journey for two acts into a rather generic ending. Echoes is a film that will probably leave you feeling unsatisfied despite some nice direction and acting.

Movie ★★★☆☆

Tinted @ 4:44

One may debate the merits of Echoes as a film but this 1080P Blu-ray presentation is nice. Starz/Anchor Bay provides a top-notch transfer, likely taken directly from the film’s digital intermediate at 2K resolution. Echoes was shot on the RED Scarlet digital camera with professional, mature cinematography. Properly preserved in its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Echoes is a striking film at times with its finely composed desert vistas of Joshua Tree, California.

The sharp, impressively detailed video has superb contrast and clarity. The 88-main feature gets a BD-25 by itself since there are no included special features. That leads to a strong AVC video encode which averages 26.94 Mbps. It replicates the digital intermediate without obvious artifacts and compression problems. The movie’s careful digital grading plays with light control, changing from sun-kissed exteriors to moodier interiors. The overall palette is muted and has a mild push towards blue.

Close-ups display excellent resolution and detail, the transfer is free of filtering and other deleterious artifacts. Shadow delineation is superb, fine shadow detail remains visible even in the darkest scenes. Echoes has been shot with care and looks like a much bigger film than it should by all rights.

Video ★★★★☆

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack provides an enveloping atmosphere of dread for Echoes. Smart sound design and a haunting score by composer Dre Nitze produce a very solid audio experience. Nice channel separation and some very distinct surround cues add to the film’s mood. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, placed in easy balance with the well-mastered score. This is not the most vibrant mix with heavy bass, but its muted tones work well for the thriller.

Anchor Bay provides optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. They appear in a white font, remaining inside the scope framing at all times.

Audio ★★★★☆

Echoes was originally produced a couple of years ago. This Blu-ray has no special features.

Extras  ☆☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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