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Making of a Ghost

Since the core of the Stir of Echoes story revolves around psychological horror, rather than physical, Koepp wanted a disturbing ghost, but not one slathered in blood. He points out that the tragic character of Samantha, portrayed by Jenny Morrison, isn't even "bad or mean. She's just disturbed, unable to rest. Therefore, we wanted her to be psychologically disturbing, more than physically disturbing."

Thus, Koepp and director of photography Fred Murphy chose to shoot the actress, when she was performing in her ghostly persona, at the rate of six film frames per second.

"Ghosts in movies tend to have halos or glows or be hazy or something," Koepp explains. "They have been done many ways. But for this film, we didn't have a large budget for visual effects, for one thing, and more importantly, I felt we should alter her in-camera as much as possible. Therefore, we came up with the idea of shooting her at six frames a second. But having the actress move normally at six frames, she would sort of jerk around like the Keystone Cops. That's why we hired an actress who had lots of ballet experience. She was able to move slowly, at about a quarter the speed of how she would normally move. While she did that, we shot her at six frames a second. The way that movement came out, she has a slight jerkiness to her movements, but in a very subtle way. It is the kind of disturbing movement you can't exactly put your finger on. I thought the concept was very effective. On film, there is an ambiguity about the ghost that is scary. She isn't normal, but she's not drenched in blood either. In the end, I felt it was the typical lesson of filmmaking when trying to be scary: make it mainly suggestive."

Indeed, filmmakers captured hours of footage of the character, some of which was too disturbing to include in the movie, according to Koepp.

"We shot her shaking her head around and her hair becomes a blur that ends up very disturbing, and looks too scary. It sort of takes away from the main idea that she is disturbing, but not necessarily a monster," Koepp adds. "We kept enough to inflate audience imaginations, but not so much that it took away from the very real story we were trying to tell."

Kevin Bacon, whose character interacts the most with the film's unique apparition, points out that the look, and the whole creative approach to the supernatural character, works mainly because it is so far removed from traditional cinematic portrayals of ghosts and the supernatural world in general.

"I could feel and really get into her presence during my scenes with the ghost," says Bacon. "I felt she was compelling - much more interesting than some big, lurking ghoul. The story we tell about how she died and became a disturbed ghost is totally realistic and interesting - you end up caring what happened to her. The effect, in my opinion, is what real horror is all about. I've done slasher movies before (Bacon appeared in the original Friday the 13th early in his career) and this approach is much more interesting. I find great horror more in films like The Shining, The Hunger or Rosemary's Baby than those slasher films. This movie is much more in that tradition. It has an interesting story and offers a realistic backdrop for this ghostly appearance.

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