Stir of Echoes (1999)

August 18, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Most ghost stories can get trapped in a typical frame, where the ghost wants to give  a message to  someone living or wants someone to do something for them that they didn’t accomplish while alive. Stir of Echoes is no different, but how it approaches the story is interesting. Director David Koepp uses great visuals and builds up tension of the unknown well, creating a creepy atmosphere and Kevin Bacon is amazing in the lead role, almost pushing the film to be something greater.

Stir of Echoes flexes its muscles after Tom Witzky gets hypnotized, and starts to sporadically see the unknown. Koepp creates psychedelic images and a haunting atmosphere. The film feels like a horror house walkthrough in the mind of Tom. The particular spiritual being that haunts Tom, and at times takes over his mind in a pulsing red, is found everywhere from his sons television shows to his living room. The eerie whispers, sudden screeching sounds and the raving madness of Tom all add to the uneasy feeling you get through the entire film. The mystery you’re trying to figure out along with Tom is also captivating enough to make you care.

Kevin Bacon carries most of the film with his searing performance of the everyday, blue-collar worker Tom Witzky. Bacon, as Tom, is a wholly relative character; someone that still tortures himself with the dreams he never pursued. He’s a character that fears being without a purpose in life more than the dangerous mysteries that the ghost of Samantha brings to his life. There’s an incompleteness in Bacon’s eyes, and he fills that emptiness with rage and madness that he gets when he finally finds something to do–solving the mystery the ghost of Samantha presents to him. He has a sense of purpose, and somewhere in the madness, there’s a happiness of being someone instead of being a nobody. The rest of the cast perform well enough, but it’s Bacon’s film all the way through.

Stir of Echoes is a film with satisfactory scares and visuals that are more interesting than the story itself. The real prize in the film is Bacon’s performance, as he comes off so natural that it’s scary. The main character of Tom is interesting in that he wants to have a purpose in life, just like we all do, as being ordinary is what he fears the most.

Potential Drawbacks:

The story isn’t too interesting once everything is unraveled, and it feels overdone. There’s also an awkward story choice, where a character comes back after the audience thinks he’s dead. It feels like sloppy writing. The script feels a bit sloppy overall. The film starts off strong, but as it goes along, some may care less and less about the story.

Samantha, the ghost that contacts Tom throughout, isn’t necessarily scary; however, the atmosphere and the way she’s presented creates the eerie scenes. Some may think it feels like a poor man’s version of the Sixth Sense, where the only thing that’s better is Kevin Bacon’s performance.

Film Recommendations:

Sixth Sense
Session 9


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