Stir of Echoes - Internet Movie Database Nitrate Online Review
Contents | Features | Reviews | Books | Archives | Store
Stir of Echoes - Nitrate Online Store
Movie Credits Buy It!

Stir of Echoes

Review by David Luty
Posted 10 September 1999

Stir of Echoes

 Directed by David Koepp 

Starring Kevin Bacon, 
Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, 
Liza Weil, Kevin Dunn, 
Conor O'Farrell, Jenny Morrison, 
Zachary David Cope, Lisa Lewis, 
and Eddie Bo Smith Jr. 

Written by David Koepp 
based on a novel by 
Richard Matheson 

In a sudden, quiet moment of reflection, Tom Witsky (Kevin Bacon), a rough-hewn blue-collar husband and father, assures his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) that the higher aspirations with which he courted her was not some line of bull - he really believes he’ll make something more of himself, someday. We know we’re about to watch a suspense chiller, and this early moment of small, poignant vulnerability hints at something richer, a suspense chiller with more than just the broadest of life and death stakes. But Stir of Echoes, the latest entry in this year of the ghost story, favors the route of the all-too-normal paranormal.

  Tom, Maggie, and their four or five-year-old son Jake (an exceptionally natural Zachary David Cope) live in a modest rented townhouse near Maggie’s more educated sister Lisa (Illeana Douglas). One night at a party, Lisa, who happens to believe in things like astrology and psychic power, goads Tom into being a recipient of hypnosis. He doesn’t believe in it, at least not until Lisa is through with him. He comes out of his trance with a new appreciation for the concept, and with a recurrence of flashing, nightmarish visions that show him something his son Jake has seen and interacted with all along - the restless ghost of a girl angrily residing in their home.

  This is obviously similar in premise to the recent Sixth Sense, though Stir of Echoes doesn’t make itself as much a slave to plot twists as its predecessor. In fact, Stir of Echoes lays most of cards right out on the table, drawing suspense from its withholding of the backstory rather than anything with much direct effect on the film’s present. That presents writer-director David Koepp with a specific problem that he never quite tackles - how to give the film a strong sense of urgency. The place Koepp needed to look, the place where he does look but to little avail, is within the character of Tom. Stir of Echoes is based on a novel by Richard Matheson, and the story seems tailor-made for the page in ways it is not for cinema. The story’s real vitality takes place inside Tom’s fragile mindset, but Koepp is unable to properly track his tricky psychological meltdown, which travels awkwardly from abject fear to obsessive determination. He also has a difficult time keeping his main character a vital part of his main plot line. The fact of the matter is that Tom’s main purpose in the story is to uncover the truth behind a past event he had absolutely nothing to do with. Koepp strains hard to connect Tom’s early emotional openness to his later state of mind, but it feels a bit trite to qualify such a fantastical situation, the mission assigned to him by the ghostly girl, as a personal confidence builder.

But Bacon gets his hands dirty playing the part, and makes the herky-jerky physical and emotional movements of his character riveting despite the inability of the film to get very deep inside his head. Watching him dig up his own yard and house like a madman recalls the self-destructive force of Harry Caul in Coppola’s The Conversation, which in turn brings to mind the ability of that prior psychological masterpiece to do what Stir of Echoes cannot. Koepp does a nice job of delivering a sometimes chilling atmosphere and even a few jolts, but by the time the dismally routine, irrelevant finale plays out, it becomes clear that the story’s foundation is the movie’s true ghost.

Contents | Features | Reviews | Books | Archives | Store
Copyright © 1999 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.