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Stir Of Echoes: Special Edition

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at 800]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 24, 2000 | E-mail the Author
In Short: A pleasant suprise - great movie, very good sound and an entertaining commentary.

The Movie:

"Stir Of Echoes" had the incredibly unfortunate luck to be released at about the same time as "The 6th Sense", which is a similar movie in general plot, but the two movies are different in style and feel. I wish I had seen this film in theaters, as I was incredibly suprised by how intense and well acted it was. Certainly, I think it's the best performance I've seen from Kevin Bacon.

"Stir Of Echoes" stars Bacon as Chicago (the film was actually shot in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood) electrican Tom Witzky, who notices that his son is talking to someone who isn't there. Into the picture comes Tom's sister-in-law, played wonderfully and with sharp humor by Illeana Douglas, who considers herself a hypnotist. During a party one night when everyone's had a little too much to drink, Tom dares her to hypnotize him. She does, and when he comes out of the abyss, something has changed drastically within him. He starts having visions that get more and more dark and sometimes violent. They pop up out of nowhere and are gone just as quickly. Rather than be afraid of what he has begun to see, he becomes intensely curious. Who is his son talking to?

The film maintains an phenomenally creepy atmosphere throughout, and actually, had me more involved for a good deal of the film than I was with the "Sixth Sense". There are constant small twists and turns throughout the picture and more than that, I was extremely pleased with how well the characters were written. The neighborhood in the film is meant to feel like a normal, working-class neighborhood, and the characters and dialogue have been extremely well done. These feel like normal people and that makes them all the more interesting. As I've said before, Bacon's performance is one of his best and certainly, his most intense that I've seen. Douglas is also excellent. I'm not sure of the child actor's name, but he was very good as well.

While some of the movie was a little disturbing and saddening, the performances are outstanding and I was entertained by the story, as well as the ending. Well-directed and well-written, "Stir Of Echoes" is a movie that was unfortunately overlooked at theaters.


VIDEO: Oddly, this is a "16x9 enhanced Fullscreen" edition, which means that if you do not have a widescreen TV, the image will be letterboxed at 1.78:1 - if you have a widescreen TV, it's fullscreen. While I'm sure this will be debated, the result that's on the final disc is still very good. The picture is crisp, but not razor sharp - especially in some of the dimly lit interiors. Colors are rather subdued by intent, but remain natural and have no problems. Detail is generally good, and flesh tones are natural.

There are few flaws and most pleasing is that there are no instances of shimmering. The only minor thing that I noticed were a few very minor marks here and there in the print used. All in all an odd decision to do "16x9 fullscreen", but the final product is fine looking.

SOUND: I was really very pleasantly suprised by how wonderful and creative the audio was on this film. Although there are certainly some scenes in the movie where the film is simply just dialogue as characters talk back and forth, there are scenes when all speakers work together to create an intensely creepy atmosphere. While a film like "The Haunting" scares with loudness, "Stir Of Echoes" is one of those movies where the sound creeps out of nowhere and before you know it, you're surrounded. Surrounds are used very well for all of the scary noises and sounds used, such as thunder. Dialogue is clear and easily understood, with no problems. It's not consistently intense in terms of sound, but when it starts up, it's very effective and a pleasure to listen to.

MENUS:: Creepy animated clip with scenes from the movie leads you into an even creepier main menu with animation. Artisan has really been doing some great menus lately, although some thought their menus for "The Blair Witch Project" were a little hard to read. What they did for "Stir Of Echoes" is strong work, though. Also, awesome scene selection menus where clips from the scene play when they're selected in the menu.


Commentary: Although I believe the commentary was also originally announced as including Kevin Bacon, the final commentary is only by director David Koepp, who certainly does a good job on his own throughout the film. He goes into detail at the opening of the commentary about how he became involved with the project, finding the Richard Matheson (who also wrote "What Dreams May Come") novel in a bookstore and finding the rights to the book before embarking on making the movie. Also early on in the commentary, he mentions his work on the sound mix, which I found interesting and pleasing, since I really liked what was done with the sound. Also quite interesting is a small bit of discussion about how Brian Depalma was able to give the director some suggestions about how to work on an early scene.

Koepp is funny and interesting throughout, although he is very happy with the performances, he is honest in talking about little things that he feels as if he didn't quite pull off the way he would have liked, which is refreshing to hear and makes for a more interesting commentary track. Koepp also talks a lot about the locations where he did shoot the film, and a few that he considered, but didn't use because they were a little too big in scale. Another interesting point is the use of smaller effects in the film that are more effective than larger, major computer effects. There are some pauses throughout the commentary, but I didn't feel that any were big enough to be distracting and for the most part, I found his comments quite informative and the tone of the discussion to be relaxed and entertaining. I would have liked if Bacon had joined the commentary so that the two of them could talk back and forth about the movie, but I think the director has done a fine job on his own. A very well-done commentary and I hope that Koepp will contribute more commentary tracks in the future.

trailer/tv spots: The trailer is included, as well as 4 TV spots

Featurette: A very short 2 minute promotional featurette that has a couple of interviews and some footage of the movie and production at work.

Behind The Scenes: About 6 minutes worth of literally scenes of the production at work on scenes from the film - lights and camera being set up, and a look at all of the equipment that needs to be in place while shooting a scene. We see the director discussing the scene, etc, but there is no discussion to the audience. It's a very effective documentary and I wish that it was longer. While featurettes usually show a few seconds of the crew at work, this really takes you in-depth to the process like few documentaries have. I just wish that it was longer.

Talking About David Koepp: If you look under Koepp's bio, you will find this 2 minute documentary where the actors discuss their thoughts on working with the director.

Talking About Kevin Bacon: Inside Bacon's bio on the disc, you will find this 1 1/2 minute documentary where the actors and director talk about working with him.

Also: Music video, production notes and cast/crew bios.

Final Thoughts Definitely recommended - a very good special edition and a suprisingly well-done film.






Highly Recommended

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