Stir of Echoes (1999) – movie review


“I couldn’t let that happen, not here. This is a decent neighborhood.”

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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 stir of echoes dvdhandle 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.

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Trivia bits:

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.

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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,


What is ‘Horror’ to You?


What is ‘Horror’ to You?

The other day on Facebook someone said, Stir of Echoes wouldn’t be considered a horror film. Really? It has a vena stir of echoes - bookgeful spirit/ghost, it has some nasty deaths, it has creepy atmosphere… it certainly ain’t a drama. It is written smarter and with more complexity than your average horror genre flick, thanks to the pen of Richard Matheson, but I would still consider it horror.

I would tend to think that paranormal films are more horror than slasher films, but some people disagree. stir of echoesJust because someone doesn’t find a particular film scary, doesn’t mean it’s not horror.

You’re Next is more of a suspense/thriller film than horror, but I feel if someone dies in a nasty way and didn‘t deserve it, it is pretty horrible and therefore considered horror. So my definition of horror is in the broad sense. Of course, even though Ghost had a supernatural element to it, I wouldn’t consider that film horror. Nor would I consider all of the ‘romance with ghosts’ novels and stories that have inundated lately, to be horror. But that’s just me. If you want to consider them horror be my guest, I won’t argue.


My definition of horror is:
‘a book, film, or story that raises your defense mechanism, makes you nervous, edgy, frightened, or scared with the threat of danger, death, and even damnation, at the hands of an individual or thing, above and beyond the conventions of normalcy.’ 


To further explain, being attacked by a serial killer is not a normal event. Attacked by a poltergiest or angry spirit isn’t either. I would consider both horror.Seven film

I wouldn’t consider a Tom Clancy novel horror, even though it raises your defense mechanism, and includes the threat of danger/death. If you are in the mob, or if you cross the mob and get shot for it – that is normal for that lifestyle and not considered horror. Likewise, if we are following a detective who is investigating/hunting a serial killer, that is somewhat normal for what they do and would most likely be considered a thriller or crime drama.

In certain instances a thriller can cross over into the horror genre, like in Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. Serial killer films can be considered horror if we are up close and intimate with the killer’s actions – if we can actually experience the horror felt by their victims. They create a psychological horror atmosphere – an atmosphere of horror within your mind. The Human Centipede and Maniac are definitely horror under this aspect. Jaws can also be considered horror under this parameter.


I would consider most stories with a ghost, spirit or a supernatural entity to be horror. I would also consider films with a psychological terror aspect to be horror. Of course, Horror has many sub-genres. I will have a post about sub-genres in the near future.

But until then, What is horror to you?

What are your feelings on what makes a good horror story?

What films are considered horror that you wouldn’t consider horror?

– and visa-versa –

What films are not considered horror that you would classify as horror?