EARTH TO ECHO REVIEW

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From the opening shot with our gang of loveable rogues mucking about with a handheld camera, I was dreading what lied in store. However, it’s not all bad. A decent, if virtually unknown, cast help bring some likeable characters to life in a sci-fi rollercoaster ride of a movie. The only problem with the shaky camera work, you feel like you’ve been on one when you come out of the cinema.

To be honest, the found footage or recorded true events movies have died a death for me after the Paranormal Activity franchise managed to resurrect it and exorcise it within a few films. The camera work, at times, is too shaky. I know that it sounds like I’m being picky but as much as I respect realism and the fact kids are supposed to be handling their mobile phone cameras, camcorders (etc), it can get incredibly irritating that you want to yell at them to keep the camera still.

It was a fresh take to have an unknown cast but also a bit of a gamble. However, they play the parts well and make a memorable impression, particularly Reese Hartwig as the eccentric Munch.

What’s it about? After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

Now that premise may remind you of a similar 1982 sci-fi classic featuring a little alien that needed to phone home and inevitably comparisons are made from the get go. And that’s a bit of the problem, despite updating the special effects and providing a fresh angle with the handheld concept; you can’t help but feel that Earth to Echo is re-treading old ground from classics that done it much better and still surpass any film that tries to copy it. At it’s core, it’s ET meets the Goonies. A group of kids are spending their last night together before their homes are pulled down for a freeway. And what a last night as it’s a race against time to help a robotic Wall-E-esque alien get home.

The special effects are brilliant. The detail on Echo is fantastic. Even if his little adorable orb-esque (Yeah, I say esque a lot) eyes remind you of it’s Pixar counterpart. The quest in which the gang must find pieces to repair Echo like The Iron Giant is suspenseful, funny and entertaining. The handheld is used to its strengths, especially when they have to break into someone’s home. There is also a fantastic sequence in which an oncoming lorry looks like it’s set to collide into our heroes, only for it to be dissected piece by piece with the driver still hovering around in his seat.

Apart from the camera work (although the Go Pro sequence on the bikes was a nice touch), the pace zips along and keeps it all watchable as it reaches it’s exhilarating frenetic finale. The cast are good, the effects are great. It just falls short of becoming a classic but in terms of keeping the little uns entertained, it’s worth a shot. But if I haven’t sold it for you then I recommend How To Train Your Dragon 2.

3/5 for me.

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DEVIL’S DUE REVIEW

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The end is nigh. Well, the end for the horror genre. Extreme? Hardly. Needed. Damn right! Another example of a regurgitated, predictable, lazy, teen horror movie that desperately attempts to reap from the Paranormal Activity hype. But let’s be honest, that hype died after the first one. Paranormal Activity was a treat, an actual creepy, tension builder, that recreated and improved what the overrated handy-cam trend setter The Blair Witch Project set out. However, too many movies have popped their ugly heads out from that craze and I pray that this be the last but unfortunately the true horror is that it won’t be.

Here we follow cutesie newlyweds Zach (Zach Gilford, you may recognise him. It’s Matt Saracen from the hit TV show Friday Night Lights) and Sam (Alison Miller. Que? Well she was in Terra Nova, the ridiculously expensive prehistoric dino turd that got cancelled. Bad example?) as they get married (Awww. Vom!). Seriously, someone emptied all the whole Parmesan tin on this. They go on an exotic Brazilian honeymoon, get lost, get drunk, suspect taxi driver recommends strange place but takes them before they can say, “Wait a minute”. And that last drink, oh that inevitable last drink instead leading to you being passed out on the bathroom floor, poor Sam gets impregnated by a Satanic cult.

The shoddy hand held camera work is incredibly irritating. It’s like watching my Dad film. Frantically going all over the place and badly out of focus. Did my eyes in. What made me laugh was that it was supposed to be from Zach’s camera. And when it wasn’t, it would switch from other people’s cameras, mobile phones and CCTV. However, they must have given up on the idea because there were several moments where they being watched without the “different cameras”. The usual by the numbers build up started little bumps in the night to strange behaviour leading to an obvious if incredibly ear piercing finale (I mean the screaming. Jesus! We get it, she’s giving birth to Satan or is she? Thanks to a frankly pointless plot hole) , that reeked of every mediocre Paranormal Activity sequel. 

The main issue is that either the writers and producers either have never seen Rosemary’s Baby and inadvertently delivered a poor modern day rehash of it or they knew what they were doing which is even more tragic. It’s watchable, only in the hope that you want something to happen. It is incredibly boring for a film that is only 88 minutes long. I couldn’t even argue that was slowburning, leading to an epic conclusion. When the scares do happen, they are limited, predictable and not even jumpy. Jumpy seems to be the only tactic that these films go for. Not genuine tension, good characters that you actually care whether they live or die and actual scares. 1 out of 3 would have sufficed. I jumped more when I was dropping off and the dog barked. Only genuine scare maestro going in this flailing effort. The plot holes came thick and fast. Nothing was explained. SPOILERS! The cult members crept into the house so easily? The blade? What was the deal with that? Why didn’t the little girl say anything after the creepy outburst from Sam that was borderline Exorcist? NO, NO, NO.

In conclusion, a dreadfully dull diabolical demon of a dud. 1.5/5. I’m putting that at #124 out of 128! If anything, the message this film conveys is don’t go abroad and don’t get in a taxi. Brilliant!