Lionsgate // 1999 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 19th, 2004
...And then take Steve Martin, connect him to John Candy in Little Shop of Horrors, who was also in Nothing But Trouble with Demi Moore, who starred in Striptease with good old Burt Reynolds, who was in Cannonball Run with...and then, umm...dang it, I can't get to Kevin Bacon!
Kevin Bacon is Tom Witzky, a telecom engineer who is having a hard time making ends meet. He lives with his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and their son, Jake (Zachary David Cope) in a so-so part of a Chicago, Illinois suburb. When Tom and Maggie are invited over to a house party by their neighbors (including character actor Kevin Dunn, Hot Shots!), Tom is hypnotized on a dare by his wife's flaky sister (Illeana Douglas, Cape Fear). When Tom awakens he finds that he's not alone -- while under the hypnosis, Tom brought back something dangerous...and it's not human. As the supernatural element tries to contact Tom through his dreams and voices in his head, Tom slowly begins to feel like he's going insane. Finally, Tom is pushed to the brink of sanity and forced to dig (both literally and physically) into the past to uncover a dark secret that he never could have imagined.
For a more in-depth look at Stir of Echoes, I urge you to read our previous review of the original DVD release.
Personally, I found myself getting increasingly antsy during Stir of Echoes. A rabid horror buff, I'm always up for some new chill or thrill to get my pulse racing. However, I'm finding that the one sub-genre of horror that I normally find boring are supernatural thrillers -- you know, stories about some ghost that haunts a family, couple, house, et cetera. The Ring bored me and The Grudge looked like a sleeping pill to me. While Stir of Echoes isn't the snooze-fest I anticipated, it's also nothing overtly special when it comes to scary movies.
Kevin Bacon runs around the film looking like he got up on the wrong side of the bed in 1992 and never went back to sleep. He stares at the screen with a sleepy eyed, sometimes menacing look that makes you think he's in a trance. Most of the film deals with such unbearable creepiness like...hold your breath...creaking doors! Flashing lights! Distant screams and yells! In other words, it's not very creepy at all. In the wake of director M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, we're now treated to horror movies that always have a twist at the end. No matter what, you never see it coming -- and while the same could be said for Stir of Echoes, I wasn't exactly shocked (or entertained) by the film's requisite complex ending.
I know people who like movies in the vein of Stir of Echoes, and God bless them -- I can understand your desire to avoid any film that shows horrible images of hockey faced monsters slaughtering teenagers at a summer camp or stalking them with razor tipped fingers in their dreams. And yet I'll always be compulsively drawn to slasher movies more than ghost thrillers -- I must have been programmed that way when I was a kid (to my parents dismay, lest my own children ever have to sit through Texas Chainsaw Massacre 9: Leatherface Goes To Maui). Stir of Echoes is entertaining enough if you like your horror movies slightly bland, with a side of Bacon.
Stir of Echoes: Special Edition is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Artisan has done a fine job at making sure this transfer is clear, clean, and very well rendered. Lots of shadows and black levels permeate this transfer, and all are solid and well defined. The soundtrack is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround and DTS Discrete 6.1 Surround. It always cracks me up when studios -- floundering to make a special edition out of anything they can get their hands on -- throw on a super high tech 6.1 sound mix on a movie that doesn't really need it. But, here it is on Stir of Echoes: Special Edition, and while both the DTS and Dolby mixes sound fine (lots of scary noises and music in both the rear and front speakers), was it really all that warranted? I guess so, and here are the soundtracks to prove it. Also included on this disc is a Dolby 2.0 mix, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
The big deal about this new edition of Stir of Echoes: Special Edition are the newly created extra features. Although I'm not sure who thought a special edition of this film was warranted, well...here it is anyhow. The meatiest supplement is a commentary track with director Davie Koepp discussing various aspects of the film, including the casting, the actors, the storyline, and the production. The guy is humble enough to even point out some of the flubs in the film. This is an above-average commentary track for a rather below-average thriller.
Next up are a batch of featurettes, including "Making of Stir of Echoes," "Mind's Eye: Behind The Trance," Sight of Spirits: Channeling the Paranormal," as well as a production and special effects featurette. All of these featurettes are only mildly entertaining; mostly because I thought the movie itself was only mildly entertaining, and that's being rather generous. The cast and crew all discuss their thoughts about the film, including star Kevin Bacon musing on various topics that couldn't have interested me less (why couldn't they get him for a Tremors special edition instead of this crud?). The production featurette with production designer Nelson Coates is somewhat better than the rest, though that's only because I always find behind-the-scenes set stuff intriguing. Otherwise, the bulk of these featurettes are run-of-the-mill DVD shorts that didn't do much for this reviewer.
Finally there are some screen test clips, a behind-the-scenes / final shot comparison, a music video for the song "Breathe" by Moist, and a few deleted scenes. The DVD comes in a special slipcase that looks like black blood dripping down the front cover. Oooooh...scary!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 6.1 ES (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary Track
* Production Featurette
* Deleted Scenes
* Special Effects Featurette
* "Making of Stir of Echoes" Featurette
* "Mind's Eye: Behind The Trance" Featurette
* "Sight of Spirits: Channeling the Paranormal" Featurette
* Music Video