Director – David Koepp
Cast – Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Zachary David Cope, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn, Conor O’Farrell, Lusia Strus, Stephen Eugene Walker, Mary Kay Cook, Larry Neumann Jr., Jennifer Morrison
Release Year – 1999
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have always been a fan of supernatural horror, especially because there is always a strong mystery element to such films. Because of this, I gave this film a watch several years back and remembered enjoying it very much. After another recent viewing I can say that this film still holds its own as one of the better supernatural horror films in recent time, especially when you consider that this is a Hollywood film. Sounds surprising doesn’t it?
Stir of Echoes stars Kevin Bacon as Tom Witzky, a simple lineman(job) with a faithful wife named Maggie(Kathryn Erbe) and a young son named Jake(Zachary David Cope). Zachary has the ability to speak and hear from spirits, a trait his father will soon take upon as well. After being hypnotized at a party by his sister-in-law, Tom awakes from hypnosis with the same ability. Soon after Tom begins to have severe hallucinations regarding a young girl and a bloody crime-scene. As Tom tries desperately to figure out what exactly happened to him during the hypnosis he becomes more and more obsessed with solving the puzzle in his hallucinations. The closer Tom gets to figuring out the meaning behind the horror in his mind, the closer he gets to a deep buried secret very close to home.
Right from the get-go this film had my attention with its nicely used atmosphere and musical score. I don’t think filmmakers will ever get tired of using children as mediums between the dead and the living, and quite honestly…I can see why. It just works. I don’t know what it is really, but there is just something creepy about a child speaking with the dead. We get a fair amount of this element in the film, and it works to set up the storyline for the rest of the film as well as a few creepy moments. This film kept me interested with it’s subject matter, especially the fact that both Tom and Zachary were able to speak with the dead, but at different extremes. Zackary was very nonchalant about the dead speaking to him, whereas Tom was going berserk over the strange occurrences. I must applaud writer/director David Koepp for doing a fine job with such a small film resume at the time. His pacing was great thanks to the numerous developments and creepy scenes, plus the mystery element was a nice touch as well. I personally wish we would have been given a few more quality scares instead of the usual jump scares, but I can live with that.
I have yet to read the novel this film is based on, author Richard Matheson’s “Stir of Echoes”, so I am unable to comment on how true this film stayed to its source material. Nonetheless, the writing job by David Koepp is a nice one that uses its characters well. All three protagonists, Tom, Maggie, and Zachary, were used to their potential and none were a waste of screen-time like we see in some other films that add characters simply for diversity and not any “real” purpose. I don’t know what it is about ghost mysteries, but they get me pretty much every time as long as there are at least moderately executed well.
Overall, this is a positive watch that I recommend to fans of supernatural horror films. The mystery element is done correctly and this film develops nicely thanks to that. The scares could have been done better, but overall the creep-factor was high enough to be enjoyed by the most seasoned of horror vets.