Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DVD: Stir Of Echoes: SE

Director: David Koepp
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas
Year made: 1999

At the time of its release in 1999 Stir Of Echoes suffered heavily in the aftermath of M Night Shyamalan’s juggernaut sleeper hit The Sixth Sense – there just wasn’t enough room at theatres for two movies with stars seeing dead people...
Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzky, an average Joe American blue-collar worker, nothing unique about his life; has a wife and a kid and is relatively happy but not quite satisfied. When his wife’s sister hypnotises him at a party she unlocks an ability in Tom to act as a ‘Receiver’. This is when Tom’s life gets disturbing as a ghost that is residing in his family home starts to haunt him.

Director Koepp navigates his second film (although he has been a screenwriter on many more) with deft skill – the scares are truly hair-raising moments as he jump-cuts with effective dramatic impact. And although the story loses its way slightly towards the ending, it is held together by Bacon’s superb acting and a helpful dose of eerie tension supplied by Koepp.

The director is on hand to take us through the film in his highly engaging chat-track. Koepp is a good-natured sort who honestly mentions how frustrating it was when ‘the other film’ came out before his. He also happily discusses the inspiration behind the film, advice he received from other directors on certain shots and a variety of on-set anecdotes.

‘Making Of: Behind The Echoes’ proves to be the best of the featurettes and includes good quality soundbite interviews with Koepp, the film’s producers and the main cast members. It covers all the main aspects of making the movie from adapting the screenplay, producing, casting and shooting. ‘The Mind’s Eye’ and ‘Sight Of Spirits’ are both around 10 minutes of psychological babble behind the hypnosis and paranormal happenings featured in the film. There is very little to be gleaned from these weird, weird people.

Worth mentioning, finally, is the superb DTS-ES audio mix. If you have the equipment be sure to turn the volume up, turn the lights off and prepare to be frightened.

An overlooked film worth checking out.

Film: 4 stars
Extra: 3 stars

Special features:
• Audio commentary by director Koepp
• ‘Making Of Stir Of Echoes: Behind The Echoes’ documentary (30 mins)
• ‘The Mind’s Eye: Beneath The Trance’ featurette (10 mins)
• ‘Sight Of The Spirits: Channelling The Paranormal’ featurette (11 mins)
• ‘Special Effects’ featurette (4 mins)
• ‘Production Design’ featurette (4 mins)
• Screen test clips: Samantha ghost look tests (4 mins); Tom dirt look tests (2 mins); Maggie look tests (1 min)
• Four behind-the-scenes/final shot comparisons (12 mins)
• Three deleted scenes
• ‘Breathe’ music video by Moist (4 mins)
• Subtitles in Spanish and English

If you like this why not try…
The Sixth Sense: CE
Just pipped Stir Of Echoes to the punch on supernatural ghost thrillers.

This review first appeared in DVD Review #71