Jeff and I all but given up on the integrity of the favorite genre of film, some filmmaker, usually from the more imaginative realm of independent filmmaking, comes along with something that reaffirms my faith in film and my enjoyment of a much diluted category of storytelling. One of the most recent examples of this phenomenon is the psychological thriller. Very few would contest the statement that Alfred Hitchcock was the undisputed master this particular genre. What it is highly unlikely to ever see such attention to detail and perfection in execution as he was able to provide each of his movies; still this was an honorable genre and one that was well utilized by many directors and screenwriters. The psychological thriller is one of the more difficult genres for filmmakers to master. A very subtle balance has to be achieved between the necessary mindset of the characters and maintaining a pace conducive to holding the interest of the audience. By his very nature of the psychological thriller requires the screenwriter to fully flesh out the principal characters so that the psychological trials and tribulations they must face can be readily relatable to the audience. On the other side of this fine line lies the danger of becoming mired excessive amount of plodding information. One pitfall that many filmmakers endeavoring to foray into this type of movie can encounter is to permit the film to degrade into a cheap horror flick. This usually occurs when the pacing drags so much that the director seeks to compensate quick and dirty visceral manipulation requiring little imagination and plenty of fake blood and entrails. When I received the movie ‘Echoes’ by writer/director/producer Nils Timm, I admittedly had a bit of trepidation as to how the film would play out. On one hand he was a relatively new filmmaker, this being his first feature-length movie. But by the number of times his name appears in the credits is obvious he was also the epitome of the independent filmmaker, one who can envision the impropriety of process necessary to turn an idea for a story to a well-crafted film. I will elucidate further on the details but this movie return me back to some of the psychological thrillers I’ve always enjoyed.
Anna Parker (Kate French) is an attractive woman approaching her 30s. Introduction to her is following on her morning routine. Just prior to awakening at his hands spasm into a claw like configuration. The body quakes as it tenses up. She suffers from a form of sleep paralysis that allows her to be aware but completely unable to move. This is demonstrated subtly by the twitching and hives as a bug crawls closer to her face. One of strongest stylistic elements confusing this movie is the direct his attention to subtle details. It is not uncommon for the details directly related to furthering the story rather focuses on subtle nuances that help us appreciate the characters as human beings. An example is Anna is a smoker but prone to taking small nervous drags up a cigarette. She also has several tattoos, looks like a quote on her wrist and two tattoos are on the form a circle when she pulls her arm up. This helps us in the audience to piece together a full picture of who Anna Parker really is. Smoking is an affectation of a constant state of anxiety. She is unable to get a peaceful night’s sleep forced to numb herself with Ambien and wine. The tattoos help define her as a person looking for self-identification, a means to express who she used to the world. This fits in perfectly with her vocation of being a burgeoning screenwriter. The next we see her and she is in the office of the editor/agent, Paul Wagner (Steven Brand), submitting the latest draft of the screenplay. This is apparently the third rewrite still Paul is reticent to forward it to film studio execs for consideration. He explains to her that she only has one opportunity for success in a submission has to be as perfect as possible. Later that night we see Anna once again in her home when someone comes to the door, Paul. As it turns out he is also her boyfriend.
Realizing how upset at her is and that she has a serious case of writer’s block, and perhaps a weekend out of town would help her out. As it turns out his home is in the middle of the desert. The structure itself is an incredible piece of modern architecture, a one-story building entirely made out of glass. Also long for the soldier and his Paul’s dog, shadow. The first night is without incident but in the morning while Paul is on a hike and inadvertently drops the spoon into the garbage disposal. While going under the sink to fix it she discovers an old photograph of Paul with another woman. Paul was called back to the city on business but rather than go back with him and he decides to stay they can resume their little vacation when he returns. If you are very restless, sleepless night added the size to clear her head but taking a hike the next morning, bringing Shadow along with her. While in the desert a ring blows a scarf off. While fluttering away from her in the wind it begins to take shape as it was wrapping itself around a woman. On her way back she comes across a man who introduces himself as Jeremy (Steve Hanks). He lives in a trailer nearby and has gone various odd jobs for Paul including looking after the placement is not around.
Admittedly, a substantial portion of the film is devoted to setting the stage for the main plot to unfold. Supernatural element is beautifully underplayed, something exceedingly rare with both thriller and horror movies. This degree of control is rare and properly deployed as in this case the can lead to some spectacular results. As Anna investigates the history of the house she comes across the sudden disappearance of the architect, Vera Palm (Caroline Whitney Smith), who coincidentally was the woman in the picture alongside Paul that she discovered in the kitchen. Between some conventional investigation techniques and a few supernatural revelations, the truth about Paul and the details of his relationship with stock becoming clear. Perhaps because Mr. Timm is just embarking upon his two-pronged career director and screenwriter, he is able to bring a fresh perspective to a genre that was floundering with misuse. As a screenwriter his story is coherent and tightly constructed. To the casual filmgoer it may appear that the start of the movie is slow but in fact they are like piece of the jigsaw puzzle with the picture slowly take shape as he sipped the piece is properly positioned. Supernatural aspects are so precisely measured that they serve more as spices providing labor highlights to robustly prepared meal and overtaking it relegating the film to just another ghost story. After watching literally thousands of movies I am hard-pressed to remember a case with such precision and balance is demonstrated. The dénouement of the story is both believable and satisfying, once again something that not frequently seen. As noted previously, this is Mr. Timm’s freshman opus which makes me anxious to watch as his career develops.