Earth to Echo (2014)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each and every beep sound (play responsibly).

Take a Drink: when you catch the scene with the floating truck driver. Kinda obvious green screening, huh?

Do a Shot: out of thankfulness that the alien was not a Cloverfield monster. Finally, something cute…

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

In the midst of one of my sleep apnea fits, I had an oddly timed thought: Does Steven Spielberg have to pass away before we reach a Post-Spielberg era in cinema? I don’t mean to come off morbid or mean – I like Spielberg’s films, and I’m sure he’s a swell guy – what I’m really asking is if this Spielberg-sploitation or attempts at it will be ending anytime soon.

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Bury me in a leather jacket, will you?

It’s not THAT annoying, seeing modern films that have clearly been influenced by someone else’s work. In fact, it makes things that much richer and more enjoyable. What gets me is when a project has clearly been marketed to point out this influence, targeting a crowd that would gravitate towards that kind of work. Influence becomes insult.

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Then again, I did like Super 8..

The latest movie to be – on the surface, anyways – part of this trend is Earth to Echo, a mockumentary by way of found footage hybrid. It tells the story of three young friends, whose neighborhood is being taken away for some sort of highway construction. Days before moving, they experience some strange occurrences with their cell phones and, on their last night together, decide to investigate. What was supposed to be a small bike ride turns into an adventure that they’ll remember forever.

A Toast

As a horribly cynical grown up, I have a hard time experiencing that wide eyed feeling most common to kids. The closest I’ve come to that recently was with Marvel’s The Avengers, and even then I couldn’t fully explode in childishness – I WAS in a crowded auditorium, after all. Watching Earth to Echo was definitely a surprising experience, since I went in knowing next to nothing about the film, and expected even less. What I got out of it was memories of riding down local streets, getting into scrapes and growing up. By default, I got my money’s worth – from the movie ticket, I mean.

Now, there are some Spielberg like elements to note: Young whipper snappers, a loss of innocence that gives way to maturity, an alien that is merely a catalyst for the main characters to discover things about themselves, shady government officials, trouble at home, etc. I should probably be snapping at this movie, calling it “bargain bin” or something, were it not for two things: the format and the execution.

This is called found footage, though it’s really wrapped around as a documentary made by one of the kids. He edits, narrates, and even adds graphics to what is shown. Found footage typically suggests that the footage was “found” and assembled by a third party, and released to the masses for some unknown reason. Here, we get the feeling that what we’re watching was meant just for that circle of friends, not something uploaded to Youtube – though, that would’ve been a fun development.

Within the format mixed genre is some excellent craft. The kids play their roles very naturally and with a wonderful hint of gullibility – I believed that they easily believed in the alien premise (which turned out to be true, in the context of the story), like a kid would. The camera usage isn’t too far-fetched, and some cleverness with this is tried many times in unexpected places, like when expressing a character’s frustrations with family.

Here, influence could’ve become insult, but became inspiration. It’s cute, it’s charming, it’s crafted well, and it’s cool.

Beer Two

If a gripe has to be made – and I’m ok with making it, by the way – it’d have to be with some of the special effects. When the alien turns matter inside out, or uses junk to construct objects, items in the scenes look like they were dragged and dropped. It’s not too damning, as these things are kept to a bit of a minimum, but the are VERY noticeable. Some more finesse would’ve been nice.

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It wasn’t THAT bad.

Verdict

On the Spielberg-sploitation spectrum, Earth to Echo is on the more genuine side. It doesn’t appear to have a nefarious point, and can be liked by almost anyone. If I had kids, I’d take them alon… never mind – I wouldn’t be able to stand their constant beeping noises in the car ride home.

2beers

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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