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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/28/00

Stir of Echoes
1999 (2000) - Artisan

review by Frank Ortiz of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Stir of Echoes Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/B

Specs and Features

94 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:53, at the beginning of chapter 18), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary with writer/director David Koepp, behind the scenes footage, "making-of" featurette, Breathe music video for by Moist, production notes, cast and filmmaker bios and filmographies, theatrical trailer, four TV spots, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Submitted for your approval... a typical mid-town Chicago neighborhood. Tom and Maggie Witzky (played by Kevin Bacon and Kathryn Erbe) are a happy couple with what seems to be a very normal son. The sarcastic and skeptical Tom willingly lets his sister-in-law hypnotize him at a party. But soon after Tom is hypnotized, he starts seeing disturbing visions that bring him to the realization that his son is also seeing things. During an intimate moment with his wife, one set of visions stir Tom's mind and emotions until he becomes obsessed with a message he is receiving from beyond the grave.

Stir of Echoes ends up being your basic ghost story. We're seeing things through Tom Witzky's visions, and that's a neat creative angle. It's neat for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it allows the movie watcher to be that much more interested (and even a little sympathetic) with a man who can see a ghost. Writer/director David Koepp wanted to keep things simple and realistic, so we're not subjected to crazy effects, which is nice. The effect he attains gives a raw, more human feeling to the story and adds real energy to the pace of the film. There are some flash-cut images and quick sounds that made the visions seem more eerie or disturbing, but it's not terribly horrific. It's all in the editing anyway. The contrast between intensity in one scene and slow routine movement in the next gives added texture and suspense, making this an easily watchable yarn.

With that said, although I really appreciate the way the film was created, I found the plot to be a little too formula. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out the ending well in advance. Still, Stir of Echoes is definitely put together well and features some fine performances. I believe that Kevin Bacon is one of the most under-appreciated actors working in film today. His performance is so natural here, that his character's transitions seem smooth and believable. Zachary David Cope and Kathryn Erbe are good as well. Zachary is especially adept at showing little facial expressions within the character that keep his performance interesting and fresh.

The film contains a lot of dark and low lit scenes, but the image on this DVD holds its own. This is a great anamorphic transfer from Artisan. The video is clean and bright, with great detail. The colors are excellent - rich and full without any apparent bleeding. Contrast is also excellent, with deep and solid blacks (which is nice considering how dark some of the shots get). The Dolby Digital surround sound is well mixed. I actually looked around in the middle of the movie once or twice, making sure I wasn't hearing something behind me. The directional placement is superb, with the subtle sounds of voices from beyond the grave coming from just about every direction. The dialogue is crisp and clear. There's not much bass happening in the mix, but what you get is enough.

The best extra on board is the commentary track by David Koepp. I found it to be insightful and easy to sit through. You can listen to Koepp discuss his influences, and the peers that helped him with ideas on the film (such as director Brian De Palma). He also talks about how he shot the ghosts so as to make them look different than anything we've seen on film so far. He even reveals that he's a football fan - he grew up in Wisconsin and he had a hard time editing the film one Monday night, because the Vikings were beating up the his beloved Packers. As good as the commentary is however, it might have been nice to have someone else on the track too (Kevin Bacon would have been an obvious choice).

Also on the disc, you'll find three cast and filmmaker bios that include brief interviews with Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe and Koepp. There's also a featurette (which is a little disappointing, being only a little over two minutes long), and a candid behind-the-scenes piece that lasts around six minutes. I suppose it's just grand that they're present at all - we'll take what we can get.

Yes... this is another movie where some of the characters see dead people. But this movie can definitely stand on its own merits. Even if it's a little predictable, I'd have to say that it's still worth a spin. Check it out if you dare.

Frank Ortiz

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