1999; Rated R; 99 Minutes
Kevin Bacon: Tom Witzky
Kathryn Erbe: Maggie Witzky
Illeana Douglas: Lisa
Liza Weil: Debbie Kozac
Kevin Dunn: Frank McCarthy
Produced by Judy Hofflund, Gavin Polone and Michele
Weisler; Directed and screenwritten by David Koepp;
based on the novel "A Stir Of Echoes" by Richard
by DAVID KEYES
you haven't noticed lately that the horror genre has suddenly
revived itself on our movie screens, then you've likely
been living under a rock. The foundation of genuine terror
that has so intrigued and manipulated our minds for as long
as we've been alive is once again alive and kicking, despite
having grown stale and bleak over the past few years. Those
that managed to get moviegoeing observation were usually
an alliance of thrills and laughs ("Scream" anyone?). Not
until "The Blair Witch Project," from this year's Sundance
Film Festival, did the genre once again find its roots.
Since then, loud noises, creepy misgivings and deafening
screams have become more common than seeing a Backstreet
Boys music video on MTV.
but you won't find many of us grumbling. It has been so
long since a favorable horror movie has been released that
people almost forgot what they were. The last of the greats,
of course came in the mid-80s, when the now-renouned Wes
Craven produced and directed his cult hit "A Nightmare On
Elm Street" for avid teenage movie audiences. Though none
this year have quite reached that level, we seem to be headed
in the proper direction, as "The Blair Witch Project" engulfed
our psychological fears, and the religious trappings of
"Stigmata" mesmerized our minds. Only one of the slew, "The
Sixth Sense," seems to be attracting audiences that it doesn't
deserve. But now comes that movie's distant cousin "Stir
Of Echoes," which explores a similar subject, but with more
mind-boggling, fearsome results. In other words, it's "The
Sixth Sense" with genuine scares.
fascination with supernatural details keeps us coming back
to ghost stories, and "Stir Of Echoes" has one of the strongest
of the year, perhaps because the twist shatters the doubts
of its central character. Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is essentially
one of those traditional urban family men, who lives in
Chicago, and believes that, unless he can see things and
touch them, then they probably don't exist. The word "hypnosis"
is brought up one night at a party, when Tom's sister-in-law,
a heavily-educated person in the world of psychology, challenges
her brother-in-law to accept an offer for hypnosis. He accepts,
and within minutes, an irreversible plight has hammered
his mind. The hypnosis has, in a way, launched his psychic
there are images that ceaselessly flash in front of his
face with volatile effect; we see the image of a young girl
standing at a distance, at one point, and a horrendous visage
of a tooth in a sink at another. All of these shots are
filmed in such cold menacing tones that it's as if they
camera is looking at them behind ice. Tom is incessantly
disturbed by what he sees, but most importantly, he is paranoid
of what he might discover in this state. The girl he sees
is one from his own neighborhood. As the script tells us
later on, she might have even been murdered.
allegory between "Stir Of Echoes" and "The Sixth Sense"
is far in between certain details, but I found myself referring
to the other quite often. In the likelihood of other comparisons,
however, I'll save you the trouble and safely say that both
movies should not be compared to one another (for various
reasons). "The Sixth Sense" is admired far and wide for
its difficult performances, but it neither challenges us
with a compelling plot or has a decent payoff. Here is a
movie, thankfully, that manages to crank up great interest
and strong chills, at the same time of keeping distance
from the year's other ghost story. David Koepp's alert screenplay
does a great job with keeping parallels to Richard Matheson's
novel (although not always completely). His characters capture
an essence of believability in most situations, and convey
the most credible emotions for any given plot twist they
are stirred by. The child in the film, another who sees
ghost, is especially intriguing, because he bears no similarity
to that of Haley Joel Osment from "The Sixth Sense." Whereas
Cole was afraid of his gift, this kid seems to be getting
along with it just fine. The ghost, I guess, is a friend.
course, the movie is not without flaws, either. At 99 minutes,
some of the details and dilemmas are stretched beyond their
limit, and the movie takes too long in finding its path.
Some of the editing, especially during the exchange of discussion
between the boy and his invisible friend, is sometimes a
bit too dry. Still, "Stir Of Echoes" satisfies in many ways.
For someone, like me, who has waited this long for some
good scary movies, that should be all that matters.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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