The Horror Honeys: Where Terror Lives... Kinda.

Where Terror Lives... Kinda.

A Sci-Fi Honey Review

Echo Dr. (2014)

There’s a special agony one feels when experiencing the disappointment of a film that doesn’t quite live up to its auspicious premise, or the potential of some of the talent involved.  That pain is magnified by the little things the film does really well which still don’t make up for what’s wrong with it, leaving you wholly dissatisfied, like grappling with a sneeze that won’t emerge beyond the bridge of your nose. 

With Echo Dr., coming to DVD on June 17, first time writer/director Patrick Ryan Sims accomplishes a few decent feats on a tight budget, but commits egregious missteps that ultimately doom the film to dollar-bin status.
Though it admittedly has a handful of familiar tropes, I was stoked for the plot of Echo Dr. to be a sci-fi mashup of a home invasion thriller with a Terminator vibe.  The film follows a wealthy suburban family who become the target of a predatory intrusion to which dad Mike (Dane Bowman) is unable to physically intervene and protect his wife (Jordan Savage, who likes to deliver her lines while luxuriating in MILF-y lingerie), and their two whiny, obnoxious children.  The solution?  Mike’s boss offers to install a new security system in the form of an AI robot named Dell (Jonathan Hurley), a young T2 Robert Patrick-looking model who sits at the base of the gated driveway and is programmed to stop all intruders from entering, with deadly force if necessary.  Androids have never turned on us before, so what could go wrong…?

He looks really murder-y... Is that normal?
Dell makes a mechanical whirring sound when he moves, speaks in robo-monotone and can throw a mean dead-behind-the-eyes stare, yet he tries with all his creepy might to edge closer into the lives and home of the family he’s designed to protect.  This understandably weirds out Mike, who sees Dell playfully pick up his young son one moment and throw him the death stare the next moment when he’s asked not to enter the house unannounced.  This was the concept I liked best about the film, and bought up questions that I wish had been explored more in-depth: what happens when you build the ultimate murder machine, where the threat of a simple malfunction could have deadly consequences for the wrong people?  How do you live comfortably around something that wields the power to kill at a moment’s notice?  What are the true limits of our control over the technology we have wrought? 
And lastly, where can I get one of these? I mean, he brings you the mail too!
The family gets some of these questions answered one night when a power surge triggers a glitch in Dell’s programming, sending him on a lethal rampage against those he was created to protect while holding them prisoner in their own home.  I was ready for a climactic showdown between man and machine, and for the most part it delivered – it is in this sequence where Sims’ potential as a horror/sci-fi director is truly glimpsed.  In practically every other sense, however, Echo Dr. feels like a thoroughly amateur effort.  I was hoping that the odd melodrama of the first scene would not carry over into the rest of the film, and sadly, it did.  Daytime scenes are saturated with a very retro-feeling 80s soap opera/porno ambiance, and the stilted acting is similarly on par with either genre.  When I felt myself nodding off around mid-film I realized it was probably due to the weird editing, which faded to and from black between nearly every scene, giving you the sensation of drifting in and out of consciousness.  I rooted for this film to be better and I still have hope for Sims if he enlists the help of a real, professional editor in his next film, with more talented actors, and a fresher aesthetic – especially for a film in the sci-fi genre, which is DOA if it looks dated.

Pictured: "acting."
Ultimately, when the “twist” of the film occurs (and there is one, designed to knock your socks off, but it really just left a big blank space in my notes with the word “what”), it could in hindsight explain away some of the frustrations I had with why characters acted the way they did and made certain choices deemed illogical or flat-out stupid at the time.  I’d like to try watching the film a second time to see if I like it better knowing what I know now, but at press time I wasn’t able to accomplish this.  All I was left thinking about was another low-budget sci-fi film I’d seen and reviewed earlier this year, Caradog W. James’ The Machine; a superior film that proves even though you’re working with a made-for-tv budget, you don’t have to adhere to a made-for-tv look and feel.
Sci-Fi Honey Rating - Two murderous home security robots out of five.  Just put a fake alarm company sign in your yard and call it a day.