Upon the sudden death of her grandfather, Alisa (Trista Robinson) inherits his house and heads there to see what needs to be done with the property.
After meeting frail neighbour David (Marshall Hilton) and throwing a somewhat reluctant housewarming party, Alisa’s plans for the place are thrown in turmoil as strange and disturbing events suggest that the building itself is trying to tell her something.
With her spiritually connected friend Steph (Hannah Race) in tow, can the secrets of the past be unlocked?
Firstly, if you’re tempted to switch off Echoes Of Fear after the first quarter of an hour, I’d suggest that you don’t.
After the cold, cold open demise of Alisa’s grandfather sets the scene, the subsequent introductions to the main characters are a little on the shaky side, to say the least. The performances don’t convince as they should at this point, Alisa and Steph’s everyday chat being oddly stilted and unengaging.
When the action moves to the main location, it’s initially not a great deal better either. As Alisa’s boyfriend Brandon (Paul Chirico) shows up, his plans for their share of the sale makes him come across as the sort of boilerplate disinterested douchebag you’d find in countless other horrors, the difference here being that that I felt sufficiently tired of him to want him out of the story as soon as possible.
Brandon does indeed leave the place not long after, wheeling his travel bag with him. There’s a fair amount of wheeled luggage on display in the first half of this. It’s being rolled up and down steps, along alleyways and so on. If you’re into baggage solutions, this could be the movie for you.
Unlike the holdall, Brandon can’t be zipped up and stuck in a cupboard, or at least this film doesn’t have that in store for him. He’ll drift in and out of the story, as he is there to provide the double whammy of supplying the scepticism and to fulfil an archetype further down the line.
As clunky as the early going might be, the proceedings are enlivened in no uncertain terms about half an hour in as the strangeness ramps up and the performances settle down, Robinson’s in particular. As the lead, she’s more comfortable with her character’s growing unease as she begins to uncover clues which indicate something very wrong has taken place in her new abode.
As is customary in this particular subgenre, there’s plenty of wandering down dark corridors, or wandering down brightly lit corridors which suddenly become dark (what’s with the electricity supply in these places?). Haunting visions have our heroine sitting bolt upright in bed as she’s yanked violently from her dreams.
Secret places are uncovered. Danger lurks, but from where will it show itself? It’s a gaggle of ghostly goings on which will seem chillingly familiar to fans of these stories but they’re carried off well.
If Echoes Of Fear spends a lot of its second act striking a series of instantly recognisable notes, it does so with a pleasing confidence that had seemed all too absent in those moments following the opening credits. The tight spaces of the location lend themselves to a constant unease as to what’s lurking around the next corner. And there are a few nicely earned jump scares as Alisa ventures into the darkest recesses of both the place and the past.
With such a promising final approach, I’m happy to report that Echoes Of Fear sticks the landing rather well, with a reveal that’s both creepy and genuinely unpleasant. One particular POV shot demonstrates you don’t have to rub the audience’s face in graphic nastiness to get the same stomach-churning effect.
There’s a race against time element to the climax which is a little too drawn out and therefore loses some of its impact in the final moments as the paths of various protagonists intersect in a bloody and chaotic way, including the return of Brandon (but not that damned luggage of his). If the denouement is a little over-stretched, it still manages to ratchet up the tension and the resolution is satisfying enough, delivering on the chills and thrills.
Also, Hallelujah for a tale that doesn’t wrap up with a tacked-on shock and the sinking feeling that you’ve sat through this just to be set-up for a completely unnecessary sequel. No, this is done-ski once the end credit crawl begins and there’s much to be said for that.
This Avenet-Bradley joint (Brian wrote the screenplay, Laurence was the cinematographer, both co-directed) rallies from its unsteady start and establishes itself an eminently serviceable and occasionally inspired haunted house mystery.
Its eerie atmosphere is built creditably and the final act is boosted by a genuinely jolting and skin-crawling kicker as the home’s history is unveiled.
The lead actresses hit their stride as their characters are placed in escalating peril and although this horror homestead doesn’t ultimately find itself in the most elite of suburbs within the genre’s limits, it’s far from the flophouse it could have been.