Taking its cue from David Koepp's underrated Richard Matheson adaptation STIR OF ECHOES, which suffered the unspeakable misfortune of being released in the wake of M. Night Shyamalan's all too similar SIXTH SENSE (but has fortunately garnered an ever increasing cult following since), ECHOES provides proof positive if any were needed that drag queen director Chi Chi La Rue can handle more plot-driven fare alongside his wall to wall gay sex marathons like the extremely popular as well as popularly extreme LINK series. With a solid screenplay by Asian American performer Jordan Young, whose petite frame contrasted effectively with hulking Blade Thompson in their memorable tea room encounter from La Rue's TOTAL CORRUPTION II and who subsequently found an unlikely niche adapting mainstream blockbusters according to homo hardcore guidelines (kicking off with the same filmmaker's 1995 LOST IN VEGAS, pornographically pillaging Mike Figgis' ludicrously over-estimated LEAVING LAS VEGAS), it stays surprisingly true to its role model's wistful mood of loss and mourning without coming off as unduly heavy-handed in the process.
Since having his prize package celebrated in Kevin Clarke's self-explanatory titled SOMETHING VERY BIG, Tony Donovan has developed into a decent dramatic actor as both this and La Rue's CARNAL INTENTIONS (predictable a porn rendition of Roger Kumble's enjoyably trashy CRUEL INTENTIONS, in itself already a send-up of DANGEROUS LIAISONS, do try to bear with me !) amply attest. Heartbroken since the death by car crash of his lover Nick Yeager (from the Chi Chi classics COMPLEXXX and JACKED TO VEGAS), he has sheltered himself from friends and family as a living shrine to his departed paramour. Finally lured to a party by persistent buddy Patrick Allen (who gives a warmly funny performance), Tony allows himself to be hypnotized by amateur psychic Sharon Kane, only to find himself confronted with disturbing visions highlighting his lover's chronic infidelity. Best of these are an all oral something of a La Rue fetish gym orgy involving the lusty likes of cute Kyle Bradford (from John Travis' SIZE OF IT), awesomely endowed Spike and the magnificent Max Grand, my personal choice for the most beautiful man alive, and Donovan's subsequent surrender to a trio of hockey players in full regalia. These three are comeback kid Chad Johnson (star of the 1980's William Higgins masterpieces PIZZA BOY and PIPELINE, still looking mighty fine), popular Blake Palmer (whose strong physical resemblance to Yeager might offer cause for confusion) and slut pig supreme Clint Cooper and Tony's sudden change of heart is justified by his lover's deus ex machina appearance as a cum receptacle during the previous scene, tearfully urging his boyfriend : "Don't look at me, I'm dirty !" I really enjoy inventive little directorial touches such as the CARNIVAL OF SOULS moment where Tony hears the gym group moaning through his headphones during his workout, only to be met with absolute silence once he takes them off.
Plot thickens as Tony discovers Nick was carrying on with delectable Dylan Reece, an indelible if largely photogenic presence in John Rutherford's visually stunning ABSOLUTE movies for Falcon. Distraught by Dylan's refusal to share a lover, he was trying reach his house during a violent rainstorm when the fatal accident occurred. This tragedy's cleverly mirrored by Reece's nearly knocking down the absent-minded Donovan one day, allowing these two characters as of yet oblivious to what links them to meet and setting them up for the not exactly unexpected blissful fade-out, a match made in heaven with Dylan revealing himself as something of a bottomless bottom;) Eschewing the hearts and flowers, Chi Chi cranks up the heat consistently with some surprisingly raunchy sex for a story-driven feature. Even throwaway bits like one shot Mathew Hunter and anything but Nino Bacci (from Steven Scarborough's sleeper THE ROAD HOME) sneaking away from the party for a heated quickie or Allen's thorough abuse of shaven-headed and copiously tattooed gap-toothed muscle stud Michael Lance (also in the Zak Spears comeback vehicle THE JOURNEY BACK, co-directed by La Rue and Jim Steel) really sizzle.
Those new to the fornication film fold or utterly oblivious towards straight porn should take particular note of Sharon Kane, the Renaissance woman of porn. A succulent starlet from the late '70s, making her debut in Alex De Renzy's legendary PRETTY PEACHES, she has constantly re-invented herself by altering her image through various hairstyles and considerable plastic surgery which had the unfortunate side effect of leaving her with the slightly embalmed look of an overly made-up drag queen. A casualty of America's disproportionate obsession with youth and beauty, extending to the adult industry considering her largely unemployable, she found a new home as a kind of homosexual doyenne, adding often much needed thespian prowess to what many still consider the mongrel side of the business. A gifted singer and composer, she has also contributed many memorable song-filled soundtracks that truly enhance the movies they are part of. A key player in the private lives of several cult performers, like Michael Bruce and Joey Stefano, a true blue companion up until the moment of their untimely death, she is one genuinely classy lady whose tell all autobiography is long overdue.
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