Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Review: Stir of Echoes (1999)

I don't hear enough about this movie. And it's wicked awesome. Hopefully (probably not) by now, you have discovered my fondness for ghostie movies. If not, I'll say it again: I am madly in love with supernatural spooks and all the craziness and creepiness they create. I'm not a big fan of Kevin Bacon, but he stars in one badass muthafucka ghost movie, and that is Stir of Echoes.

The spooky, scary plot: Tom Witzy is a blue-collar guy, and a bit unhappy with his very ordinary life. One night he is hypnotized by his New Agey sister-in-law, which opens a door in his mind to receive messages from beyond. He starts having visions of the ghost of a teenaged girl, and becomes determined to solve the mystery of why she keeps contacting him.

First of all, I did not realize how awesome writer/director David Koepp was. This is the man behind the first two Jurassic Park films, Spider-Man, one of my personal favorites Secret Window, and even freaking Death Becomes Her. His IMDb page has got some bashing comments, but I've loved most of his movies, so he gets my good vote.

What first attracts me to the movie, and the characters in particular, is their realness. So many movies try to make the people in them seem "real" or "normal" so "regular" people can "relate" to them. And yet they live in these ginormous three-story homes and have pretty successful jobs as doctors or lawyers or real estate agents. Tom and Maggie are true blue-collar people; Maggie is a nurse and Tom works for a phone company. They live in a modest rental brownstone, they have financial issues, and they go to block parties. I like these people.

Like I said, Kevin Bacon is not my favorite (I once had a very strange dream starring him, plus seeing his wang in Wild Things sort of traumatized me for life) but he gives one of his best performances here. I don't watch a lot of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, but Kathryn Erbe is a seriously underrated actress and she is wonderful in this flick. And of course, we have to talk about the little boy playing Jake, Zachary David Cope. He's only been in this and The Wedding Singer (where he totally looked like a girl), but he is a mesmerizing little actor. Maybe it's the creepy kid-who-can-see-ghosts thing.

I absolutely adore the hypnotizing scene. I always look forward to it when I watch the movie (it's right at the beginning so I don't have to wait long) and get a big ol' grin on my face during the whole thing. It's kind of one of my favorite scenes in any movie EVER. The images created in Tom's mind and the way the scene changes as Illeana Douglas gives him directions are perfectly produced and Douglas's voice is so soothing and, yeah, kind of sexy.

This scene is only four minutes into the movie, and once it hits, the movie never gets dull or boring. Re-watching it to freshen my mind, I see that the film is quickly paced with each scene logically following the other. Subtle creepy moments are all around - most involving the kid, Jake. The best comes out of nowhere when Maggie is asking Jake about how he knew about Debbie, the babysitter. His normal kid voice suddenly changes to a deep, almost inhuman voice. There's no creepy music to tell you to expect anything weird so this little turn is good shock moment.

I've seen the movie so much now that I can't really judge the other scares or how they affected me the first time around. I love the effects on the ghost-girl and how her movements are sort of jumpy. She doesn't mean any real harm on Tom or his family, but her death needs to be avenged. Remember, it is not her who kills her murderers or those who covered it up. When the truth is revealed, it's the selfish and unfeeling actions of those who caused her death and disappearance who contribute to their own demise.

Stir of Echoes is also interesting in how Tom reacts to newfound "gift." He insists that what has happened to him is the most important thing he's ever done in his life. Solving the mystery of who this girl is is not only about her, but about how he feels about his life. His dogged determination hurts his relationship with his spouse, but in a way also brings them closer. He is reawakened to his family and how important they are to him and to appreciate the things he has as opposed to what he feels he is missing.

The movie also has quite a sense of humor with some very funny lines. I don't know why, but my favorite one is when Frank's wife notices him checking out other girls and she says, "Why don't you just lick 'em when they walk by?" A little bit of light-hearted comedy is always appreciated in a horror flick.

My brother-in-law hates stuff involving teeth. He freaks out when my nephew wiggles his loose teeth at him. I hate stuff involving fingernails. And good golly gumdrops, Stir of Echoes has scenes with BOTH of those cringe-inducing willy moments. I beg all filmmakers out there - PLEASE. NO MORE FINGERNAIL POPPING OFF SCENES. I can't take it anymore!

Stir of Echoes seems to be forever compared to The Sixth Sense because they came out around the same time and have similar elements in story. The Sixth Sense totally kicked its ass in popularity and basically fucking owned it in box office, but dare I say that Stir of Echoes is a better movie? I certainly watch it way more than Shyamalan's (jeebus, I still have to look up how to spell that) movie, which is no doubt a good flick, but not as interesting or exciting as Stir of Echoes.

I have not read A Stir of Echoes, the Richard Matheson book that the movie is based upon. I love Matheson, though, so it's definitely on my wish list.

This is a highly entertaining, fast paced, and visceral psychological thriller that is incredibly underrated. It's got a great cast (yes, even Kevin), some good creepy scenes, and a well developed mystery with a great and somewhat unexpected conclusion. And did I mention the hypnotizing scene? Seriously, it's killer. I love it.

One small nitpick: As a big Stones fan, it's kind of hard to believe that Tom is supposed to be a musician but he can't recognize one of their most well-known fucking songs. It's 'Paint It Black,' you moron! I know the version in the movie was a cover by some band called Gob, but seriously. It's easily recognizable.


  1. I only saw Stir of Echoes earlier this year and I was fully expecting to hate it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was really compelling in a way I didn't expect it would be.
    My husband has a problem with the nail thing too. It doesn't bother me so much but he hates it. I, however, like you, had problem with the non-recognition of Paint It Black. Silly covers are no excuse for stupidity. Cool review.

  2. ah, this one's on my wishlist for ages. your glowing review makes me wanna check this out as soon as possible!

    btw, you totally forgot one kick-ass Kevin-Bacon-flick: TREMORS!!!

  3. i remember loving this movie but haven't seen it in years, i think this needs a revisit. also deserving a revisit, death becomes her. i watched that movie so many times in my youth, love it!

  4. Hot damn, I really need to see this one. I guess I could give it a watch on Halloween in a couple of days. By the looks of it, I'll be enjoying the hell out of it!

  5. @Jinx - Thank you on the Paint It Black thing! Glad I'm not the only one!

    @Maynard - I will never forget Tremors! I need to do a Tremors marathon of reviews.

    @cynniegurl - Ah yes, Death Becomes Her is awesome. Was always a favorite.

    @Atroxion - Give it a view! I'll take the blame if you don't like it :). But you will.

  6. not seen it in a long time, but certainly a really good movie

  7. Oh, Tremors. My husband and I had a Tremors marathon a few months ago. It was so much fun. I'd love it if you reviewed them.

  8. finally I've seen it!

  9. I love Stir of Echoes and it would have done even btr at box office if not released the same time as Sixth Sense. SOE is a great movie, very good acting, and plot. I admit I hated those two teen boys (won't spoil it). Loved the hypnotism in the theater. Just a great flick!!