Stir of Echoes (1999)

In every mind there is a door that should never be opened.

After being hypnotized by his sister in law, Tom Witzky begins seeing haunting visions of a girl's ghost and a mystery begins to unfold around her.

I see a red door and I want to paint it black!
Stir of Echoes is written and directed by David Koepp who adapts from the novel of the same name written by Richard Matheson. It stars Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Zachary David Cope, Illena Douglas, Jennifer Morrison, Kevin Dunn and Conor O'Farrell. Music is scored by James Newton Howard and cinematography by Fred Murphy.
Chicago phone engineer Tom Witzky (Bacon) submits to being hypnotised by his sister-in-law and finds that his young son's imaginary friend is not imagined after all...
Undeniably lost in the slip-stream of the similar themed "The Sixth Sense", Stir of Echoes screams out to be seen by more fans of supernatural mysteries. It's a near faultless production, with Koepp getting all the key ingredients right on both the page and in transfer to the screen. Pacing is often the problem with films of a similar ilk, but Koepp deftly structures it in three engrossing sections.
First third establishes the main characters and the supernatural set-up, but the bonus here is that character reactions are believable, especially with Erbe's confused wife. Koepp has a great sense of atmosphere whilst ensuring we are fully immersed in Tom Wizky's new world of disorientation by way of terrifying visions and red light shocks. Second third brings the chills and the odd boo-jump, again the director is aware that too many jumps can overkill the plot, so they are nicely spaced out and accompanied by a palpable fear of the unknown. Then the last third unravels in a whirl of Roy Neary like obsessions and ghosts of the past denouements. It's a standard formula, yet it's amazing just how often film makers get it wrong, especially in horror. Not a problem here.
Film is further boosted by Newton Howard's score that blends the ethereal with rising thunder and Murphy's colour photography, the latter of which helps to paint a harmonious Chicago neighbourhood, soon to be turned upside down, literally at one end of the street. The acting is super, which in Bacon's case is a given to anyone who has followed his career, and Koepp shows some nice and creepy visual filming techniques to further enhance the great Richard Matheson's story. There's the odd little misstep, such as a thread involving a secret organisation that has the "gift" of being "open" to the supernatural, that feels like filler to over state Tom's torment. While the post reaction to a suicide attempt isn't given nearly enough screen time to really add impetus to the unfolding mystery. But small complaints only, for Stir of Echoes (great title) remains a truly involving and entertaining supernatural mystery. 8.5/10

Artisan Entertainment by David Koepp, Richard Matheson.
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Zachary David Cope, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas.

Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Keywords: cemetery secret obsession paranoia grave haunted house hypnosis tools clairvoyance murder disappearance psychic ghost neighborhood repressed memory hearing voices

09/10/1999

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