For 2 years in a row, the Women in Horror Film Festival in Peachtree City, GA has served up some of the very best female-centric horror on the planet earth. I wasn’t sure festival organizers Vanessa Ionta Wright and Sam Kolesnik could top 2017’s near perfect lineup of all-killer no-filler content, but 2018’s selections absolutely delivered the goods. While choosing a favorite is daunting, the one film that stood head and shoulders above the rest for me was Echoes of Fear, the newest feature film creation of husband and wife team Brian and Laurence Avenet-Bradley (Malignant, Dark Remains), with Brian serving as writer and director, and Lo as co-director and cinematographer.
Echoes of Fear tells the story of Alysa (Trista Robinson – The Human Race, Purgatory Road), a young college student who has just inherited her grandfather’s estate after his recent passing from what doctors are deeming a heart attack. With no intentions of keeping the house, Alysa wastes no time getting to work fixing the place up. The house is in desperate need of repair, and her grandfather had amassed quite a collection of stuff needing boxed up, but with the help of her largely absent boyfriend Brandon (Paul Chirico – Escape the Night TV series) and her best friend Steph (Hannah Race), she’s determined to get the place ship shape and on the market before next semester’s classes start. But from the moment she arrives, Alysa can’t escape the feeling she’s not alone. Aside from the squeaks and creaks you expect from an abandoned home, there’s the creepy sensation of being watched, the lights flickering on and off and objects moving on their own. Initially, she just chalks it up as her imagination, but with each passing day, the activity continues to intensify, causing her to wonder if this house is home to more than just the living. There’s a great deal of pain and secrets within these walls, and neither the dead nor the living will have any peace until all is revealed. And when all the pieces finally fall into place, Alysa and Steph will uncover a truth more terrifying than they could have ever imagined.
I was absolutely blown away by Echoes of Fear, this is the kind of film true horror fanatics live for! The main thing I loved about this film is that it constantly keeps you on your toes. What seems like a setup for your standard fair house haunting/ghost story quickly unfolds into something so much broader. This is an intricately woven tale full of mystery, intrigue, and gripping suspense. There’s a lot of clever red herrings and misdirection thrown at you to keep you guessing, an elaborate labyrinth of twists and turns that keeps you absolutely enthralled from start to finish. This is a breathless hour and 3o minutes that I didn’t want to end, never dull or boring, never dragging for even a moment.
We also need to talk about the jump scares. As a longtime horror fan, I like to think it takes a lot to really make me jump. Dread has become the pervasive tone in a lot of modern horror, there’s very few films these days that really set out to scare you, and the ones that do tend to have that been-there, done-that feeling. I can honestly, legitimately say this film has some of the best, most effective jump scares I have seen in a long, long time. When the first really big one hit, a girl seated in the front row ahead of me jumped about 5 feet out of her chair. It gave me a good jolt too, but I was so busy smugly patting myself on the back, when the next one hit that I wasn’t expecting at all, it was my turn to defy gravity. These are some legit scares ladies and gents. They’re incredibly effective, and extremely well-timed and placed, you don’t see them coming. And while jump scares tend to feel a bit gimmicky in some modern horror flicks, Echoes of Fear opts for quality over quantity, never overusing or abusing them. The execution is simply brilliant to behold, truly masterful stuff here.
The cinematography is positively breathtaking, and the musical score suits the mood perfectly. For an independent film working on a modest budget, this has all the polish of anything the big studios are pumping out these days. Trista Robinson is an absolute revelation, she turns in a truly show-stopping performance here. This was my first time seeing Trista in anything, and after seeing this film, I’m dying to see her in so much more (and will get the chance here in 2019 with Purgatory Road coming in Feb from Unearthed Films, and more in the works)! Hannah Race as Steph was also sensational, and the performances were top-notch all the way around.
Echoes of Fear wasn’t just my favorite of the Women in Horror Film Festival, it’s one of my very favorite films of 2018 period. This is the kind of film that makes you proud to be an indie horror fan, near flawless in every way, and better than the majority of mainstream big studio horror. The screening at WIHFF was the east coast premiere of Echoes, just one night removed from its world premiere at Los Angeles Shriekfest, totally bringing down the house, and ultimately took home Best Feature. In fact, it has swept Best Feature at all four of the major festivals it’s played at, with recent screenings at Apocalypse Later Film Fest in Phoenix, and Another Hole in the Head Film Fest in San Francisco, and it is unquestionably well-deserved. I simply cannot recommend this film enough, if it screens anywhere near you, this is without a doubt a MUST SEE! Essential viewing!!