“I couldn’t let that happen, not here. This is a decent neighborhood.”
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Directed by David Koepp
Screenplay by Richard Matheson and Koepp
Kevin Bacon, Katheryn Erbe, Zachery David Cope, Ileana Douglas, Kevin Dunn
Anyone that has overheard their own child seeming to have a conversation with no one, in an empty room, will understand the creepiness of this film. Almost all children do it at one point in their childhood and you chalk it up to imaginary friends and all that, but do we really know? Anyways, this film is based on the story of the same name by Richard Matheson. It is updated to the time, but still holds the story and plot points close to the book. A young couple, Tom and Maggie, with one child and another on the way, are struggling to make a good life. They have a lot going on in their daily grind and just like real life, that’s always when some weird crap goes down, when you’re least likely to be able to handle it. Tom is hypnotized by his sister-in-law and given the suggestion that he should be more open minded. He immediately sees the ghost of a teenage girl in his home. As he collects more clues as to who this girl is, his life begins to unravel and he unveils the dark underbelly of secrets held by this close-knit community.
There’s an original method to hypnotize Tom that doesn’t involve a swinging pocket-watch. How many of you listened to the instructions of Lisa and relaxed, trying to see if you could get hypnotized? I think those theater scenes are awesome. I don’t always like all the parts Kevin Bacon plays, but I think he is damn good in this film. Watching him turn into an obsessive lunatic over his brief ghostly vision is entertaining. And does he make a mess of that house. There’s some laugh out loud moments, parts where he’s all hopped up after first seeing the ghost, and moments of concern for his family that he really delivers on.
I love that Ileana Douglas plays the psychic guru sister, Lisa. She always gets stuck playing the comedic nerd-girl in parts, so she excels in this serious supporting role. The young boy, Jake (played equally convincing by Zachery David Cope), seems like a normal kid, aside from the imaginary friends. The Chicago community reminds me of growing up in Queens, NY, back when nobody had AC, cable TV, or internet. On hot summer nights, everyone would just be outside on their front steps talking with each other and hanging out.
There are some genuinely creepy scenes in this film, shocking plot twists, and a classic back story. All of these positives make this one of my favorite ghost story films. The story is laced with foreshadowing that could sometimes ruin the impact of sequential scenes, but in this film it just makes it all the more creepy. However, what really makes this film stand out is some likable characters with normal life struggles, who are thrown into an extraordinary circumstance.
On TV in the film: The Mummy’s Shroud and Night of the Living Dead
When Tom gets angry digging in the yard, he kicks the bucket and it breaks a window. This was an accident but was kept in the film because Kevin Bacon stayed in character and continued through the scene.
In the special-features, there’s some wonderful on-screen narration by Richard Matheson explaining the mechanics of hypnosis. I’m reminded of the episodes of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek he had penned.
A slowly unraveling mystery and creepy ghost scenes make this one of my fave ghost story films of all time.
I give it a 4.5 ghostly spirit scares on the scale of haunted horrors.
“Daddy says I’m-a supposed to dig.”
Recommended if you like: The Shining, Ghost Story, The Woman in Black, The Changling, The Fog,