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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Stir Of Echoes 2: The Homecoming
Stir Of Echoes 2: The Homecoming
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // November 20, 2007
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted December 22, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Stir of Echoes, the original film directed by David Koepp and starring Kevin Bacon, caught me off-guard with its electric paranoia. Bacon's overcaffeinated, orange juice infused performance made that particular rustic ghost story pretty darn intriguing. It's a shame that Ernie Barbarash's Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming, an unattached sequel to the previous narrative, doesn't share the same energy. Instead of absorbing the claustrophobic voices of incensed apparitions, this follow-up falls flat in its thematic attempts at paranormal shock and awe.

The Film:

Military officer Ted Cogan (Rob Lowe) has recently returned from a violent, medal-meriting tour in Iraq. Time there can change soldiers, especially when certain mistakes are made; Ted is no exception, as he struggles to awaken from a coma. As he returns home to his family, which is almost as thrashed and rugged as he is, they discover the dynamic between them has changed. Aside from bickering with his wife about being scrapped for cash, Ted and his verbally Anti-Iraqi son butt heads with masculine conflict. It makes for a harsh welcome home party, but works out to be a precursor to many other brash elements in Ted's life.

Where Kevin Bacon's character gains a certain special "ability" through hypnosis in the original Stir of Echoes, Ted seems to instinctively have this ability after his triggering service injuries in The Homecoming. Around every corner, bloody civilians and ghastly soldiers alike confront him. His dreams even flood into vision, becoming vividly real and haunting images before his very eyes. Radios sputter into oblivion, lights shut off without his discretion, and the ever-present voices ache within his war-torn brain. However, there's a message buried deep within these calls from the netherworld - ones of pain and torture that Ted cannot ignore until he discovers their secrets.

Instead of successfully tapping further into the mysterious intrigue of Ted's mind, Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming retreads into repeatedly trying to be a scare-a-minute ghoul fest blended with spats of non-mystifying mystery. It leans very heavily on conventional spooks with every bending corridor and darkened room, but fails to deliver substance behind its spectral encounters. It's a play on Ted's mental stability, as you haven't any clue as to whether the ghosts are in his mind or physically haunting him. Many predictable soldierly ghouls thrust from the darkened corners in grotesque blurs. Sure, when a battle-torn face stripped of flesh and blood pops out, it'll cause your hair to rise a bit. But, even though this level of horror is presented convincingly, it doesn't get you on edge enough to frighten.

Ultimately, this puzzling freak-out flick coarsely and flimsily attempts to integrate flashing clues that flow towards a mind-numbing twist. Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming has an infuriating spirit wedged into it like a bullet wound, one with a past that can spark some anger as it revolves around its Iraqi war topic. Heavy attempts are made to tap into our internal conflicts regarding the conflict, especially at the harsh conclusion. Any tension evoked revolves around a blend of supernatural possession and wartime psychoses, both rattling in Ted's mind. Rob Lowe gruffly, yet quietly, pulsates forward as the medal-adorned Ted, but he really can't do much to save such an uneven narrative. There's just too many scare tactics and not nearly enough thematic reward behind his post-war disposition.

It's easy to use the original Stir of Echoes as a basis of framework, basically because it's everything that Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming should have been. Granted, the first isn't a stellar movie, either. However, its creepy mysticism is not a bad way to waste an hour and a half. Swirling spooks and broken psychoses made that one worthwhile; Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming, in its unfocused forcefulness, doesn't share such an affinity. Instead, it tries to force a message of home-grown monstrosity within some intentionally galling images that really deplete from its already slumped potency. Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming fittingly concludes with a nonsensically harsh and ill-conceived paranormal ending that, much like the entirety of its time with the audience beforehand, manages to be off-putting in its livid anger without causing much of an evocative stir.

The DVD:

Lionsgate presents Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming in a standard keepcase DVD with a glossy cardboard slipcase.

The Video:

Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image, Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming remains a predominately dark film with an equally dim lighting scheme, excluding several sequences in brash light. Most of the scenes are bathed in the shadows, which provide a challenge for the DVD format to replicate the depths. Lionsgate's DVD handles the job adequately, though there's a fair amount of edge enhancement and graininess across the board. In the brighter scenes, however, the image is crisp and clear. Color usage and detail all look just fine, providing a solid visual experience.

The Audio:

Outside of the strong musical accompaniment that gives the film a certain flavor I vaguely enjoyed, Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming's Dolby 5.1 audio presentation was a wholly bland experience. Vocal clarity was very crisp; however, most of the sound effects were clear, but unexciting. Rear channel usage stretched backwards with the sweeping voices of the dead, giving a relatively engulfing aural experience. One scene that grinds on the ears, even though it was done well, is a loudly-mixed repetition of a key song from the film that scratches over a possessed radio. There's a mediocre level of ambiance that gently drizzles the film with ambiance. A Dolby 2.0 track is available, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The Extras:

- Commentary with Director and Editor -
Listening to the commentary with Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming was a fairly enjoyable experience. I liked hearing Barbarash and his editor, Mitchell Lackie, discuss how they conceived several scenes, including a nice car movement portion and the battery-acid colored scene later in the film. Both stay focused and enjoyably pleasant.

- Stir of Echoes: Homecoming Making of Featurette -
Sitting at around 12 minutes, this piece give s a lot of good insight into the collaboration and research elements of the film, especially through Rob Lowe's involvement. Hearing about his active participation, as well as the director's malleable disposition to hone the film, makes for a strong little feature

- Deleted Scenes -
Honestly, a lot of these elements deleted from the film could've aided the thematic development, thus stabilizing the narrative. Several scenes deliver a bit of much-needed warmth, such as a great scene with a haunted guitar in a room with Ted's photographs and map. I enjoyed the deleted portions and really think they'd help the waning thematic points. We're looking at about 8 minutes of non-anamorphic deleted scenes.


Final Thoughts:

Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming delivers a chill here and there amidst Ted's psychotic contusions, but it ultimately feels very heavy and draining when the big twist and conclusion surface within this supernatural mystery. Though it's crisply shot and meagerly spooky in atmosphere, it fails to follow up with substance to make these properly executed elements shine. Direly ravenous ghost story fans might want to give this a rental, while casual viewers should probably Skip It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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