With all of the excitement that surrounded the box-office smash that was The Sixth Sense, David Koepp's paranormal thriller Stir of Echoes was lost in the shuffle. While The Sixth Sense was an effective thriller, it's major selling point was its gimmicky ending, thus making repeat viewings somewhat pointless unless, of course, you wanted to look for all of the clues that were spread throughout the film hinting at its climax. Stir of Echoes, however, had no such gimmicks, relying on old fashioned ghost story elements paired with a compelling mystery and a very good performance by star Kevin Bacon, to deliver what is, in my opinion, a tale far more engrossing and frightening than Shyamalan's smash.
Tom and Maggie Witzky (Bacon and Erbe) and their son Jake (Cope) are a happy young family living in a tightly knit Chicago neighborhood. Tom's an average Joe who believes in working hard, bringing home a good wage, and loving his family. What Tom doesn't believe in is that paranormal, much to the chagrin of Maggie's new-age hipster sister Lisa (Douglas). She coaxes Tom into being hypnotized, and while he insists it's bogus hocus pocus, he relents and awakens several minutes later scared out of his wits. The next morning, Tom is insatiably thirsty, intensely cranky, and quite certain that Lisa messed with his head somehow. When Tom begins to see and hear things that shouldn't be, he suddenly begins to piece together a mystery within his mind that not only threatens his sanity, but could also cost him his life.
Stir of Echoes has become something of a hit on home video, and many viewers and critics alike agree that after the dust settled between Stir and Sixth, Stir came out as the better film, thanks to Koepp's smart, scary and sensitive script based on the short story by legendary horror scribe Richard Matheson) and excellent performances by Bacon and Erbe.
While it may seem that I am excessively dogging The Sixth Sense, it is only because Stir of Echoes was written off as an attempt to steal Sense's thunder, which is laughable since both films were in production at the same time, and Stir had the misfortune of being released second as well as garnering an R rating as opposed to Sense's family friendly PG-13 (something I still can't get over, given the film's tone and gruesome imagery).
Stir of Echoes was originally released on DVD a few years back with a decent helping of extra features, but Lionsgate has decided to one-up itself (well, actually Artisan, whom Lionsgate bought out) with an all new Special Edition DVD that is loaded with goodies. An all new, digitally remastered transfer, featuring an optional 6.1 DTS mix (as well as a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix for poor folk like you and me!) looks and sounds fantastic. The set also features a commentary with director David Koepp, six featurettes, music videos, trailers, production notes, deleted scenes, and more!
I really enjoyed Stir of Echoes and it's blue collar horror vibe. While the premise is something we've seen before, the execution, performances, and urban locale make it feel fresh and exciting. This is one of the best horror films of the nineties and well worth a purchase.