Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is a working-class father and husband with disappointed dreams. At a neighborhood party one night, Tom goads his flaky sister-in-law (Illeana Douglas) into hypnotizing him. Fully convinced that nothing will happen, Tom is a little freaked to find that not only was he successfully hypnotized, but he is now having visions, seeing and hearing things no one else does. Well, almost no one. His son sees dead people (and doesn't seem to be neurotic about it like some other kids). Things get weirder and weirder until Tom becomes obsessed with solving the mysterious disappearance of a neighborhood girl a few months before.
When Stir of Echoes was released in September of 1999, a lot of unfair comparisons were made to The Sixth Sense, released just a month earlier. Echoes, however, is less about Kinder-channeling and more about a man fed up with the ordinariness of his life, but totally unprepared to face the extraordinary.
The movie starts off really well with full-tilt creepiness, good digital effects (used sparingly because the director believed, rightly, that special effects aren't as scary as real life), and imagery that had me sucking my fingers for comfort. The cast is excellent, as you would expect. Echoes keeps up its pace and hums along nicely until about an hour into the movie. Then the supernatural thriller turns into a murder mystery, and you start to realize that the one really rich subplot is going to dangle forever undeveloped. The ending is disappointing, failing to give the kind of cathartic payoff a really good scary movie needs. Plus, there's this weird feather thing that's supposed to be all Jedi-prophetic, but just doesn't hold water. Strong start, weak finish.
The print is really good and the visual effects are seamless. Audio plays a major role in the movie and the soundtrack is appropriately clear. Like The Exorcist, Stir of Echoes uses a lot of sound juxtaposition and such to heighten the audience's fear. The menus were okay, but not spectacular. One thing that annoyed me was that there didn't seem to be default selections when the menus came up. That's a small thing, though, and probably has more to do with my OCD than anything else.
Pretty standard fare is included here. Some TV spots, a theatrical trailer, production notes, bios, and a disappointingly short featurette. The behind-the-scenes footage is a slipshod hodgepodge without any apparent direction and no commentary. It just seems to be a collage of random bits. The one really great extra is director David Koepp's audio commentary. He makes the point several times that he hopes the viewer watched the movie before diving into the commentary. Good thing, too, because Koepp rarely narrates the plot that's unfolding on screen. His track is simply an explanation of the movie he tried to make, the movie he did make, and some anecdotes. Many of these types of commentaries become tedious or unfocused, but Koepp's is, in my limited experience, a standout.
Lisa McInnis, 7/3/00