Reviewed by Melissa Bostaph
Starring Rob Lowe, Shawn Roberts, Vik Sahay, Kim Roberts
Written and Directed by Ernie Barbaresh
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Horror and violence go hand in hand, as do war and violence, so it makes sense that filmmakers often utilize wartime as a backdrop or basis for horror films. Given the fact that the current war in Iraq is never far from any of our minds, it seems almost too easy for people to exploit the fear and hatred created by war and terrorism to fuel the sense of dread in their horror films.
Stir of Echoes 2: The Homecoming is just such a film. The movie begins as an action-packed whirlwind of wartime chaos with loads of gunfire, explosions, and death. The opening battle leaves us with a fire engulfed van full of innocents, the charred remains of a young girl, and a US soldier (Rob Lowe) who is totally fucked.
When Ted Cogan’s wife brings him home from his ordeal for the first time, he walks through his door and is greeted by darkness. His wife ditches him, and he wanders through the house searching for a light. As panic starts to creep into him, he is startled by a large group of family, friends, and well wishers who leap out of the darkness to surprise him. YAY!!! He’s not turning 40, you dumb-fucks … he just got blown up! I’m sure a surprise party is just what he wanted to come home to!
Now let’s tell a bunch of “Towel Head” jokes to a guy who is fresh out of combat and riddled with guilt over the fact that an Iraqi family had been fricasseed on his orders. Oh what fun! I’m sure he’ll see the humor in that. Oh wait … what? He’s upset? Well DUH! Of course let’s not be understanding about it, especially his wife. No, instead why don’t we tell him off his first night back at home after nearly dying in a war! How dare he have an attitude and ruin the party she worked so hard for?
Why don’t you just put the gun in his mouth for him?!
Ah, but he sees that later, doesn’t he? Oh yes, and in one of the most graphic brain splatters I’ve ever seen during prime time TV! Or did he? Well, it looked like he did anyway. Was it just his imagination, or was it something else?
Yeah, like I said, Ted’s head is totally fucked; and it gets progressively worse as more and more disturbing things happen around and to him. Things that he doesn’t want to believe but knows are real, dangerous things that threaten him and his family at every turn. Too bad Ted’s family is too concerned with their own lives to give a rat’s ass about the guy who, if nothing else, is suffering from a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress! From the moment his selfish bitch of a wife steps into frame, I want her to die a grisly, bloody, painful death.
Ted’s life is falling apart around him, and he is forced to face his fears in order to rid himself and his family of a deadly entity that has attached itself to him. With his own guilt driving him forward, he finally unearths the vengeful being’s motive.
Now that I am watching/listening to the original Stir of Echoes in the background, I am being reminded that this second film is done with a lot of the same elements as the first. Unfortunately, like so many sequels, it doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor. Even though it subtly mimics the original, it doesn’t possess the same eerie quality or tension that made the first so effective. It does, though, have one crossover character that ties it to the first.
In terms of supplemental material the powers that be have thrown us a couple of bones. We get your standard making-of that’s riddled with clips from the film along with cast and crew interviews, eight deleted scenes that have a tad extra paranormal activity and a surprisingly lively commentary with director Ernie Barbarash, and editor Mitchell Lackie. Nothing to write home about, but certainly nothing bad either
As far as the movie goes, I was unimpressed with the cheesy digital effects that are so bad they tend to distract you from the intensity that should be apparent. Equally I found the attempts at jump scares to be far too numerous. They happen so often that it muddles the story with unnecessary imagery and doesn’t move the plot as much as stall it with confusion. Only a few of the “scares” were effective, and those were all subtle ones.
I was taken aback (and quite pleasantly surprised) by the amount of gruesome content. From the opening shrapnel barbecue to the walking charcoal briquette that appears throughout the film, there is no lack of graphic nastiness. I’m just not sure if that makes up for the rest of the movie’s inadequacies.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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